Esmerelda read the weather forecast, glanced at the sunny sky, and knew that God was laughing. To her left, the hound dog slept in the middle of her bed, completely unconcerned. She leaned back from the computer on her table in her back bedroom, with her swollen leg perched on a stool, and called out, “Rodney!”
A weary sound echoed down the hallway, “Yeah, Ma, I know. The garbage waits for no man. I’ll take it out in a bit.”
Flummoxed, Esmeralda wasn’t sure which way to take the conversation. Immediate irritation won. “You haven’t done that yet? Really, Rod, I told you to do that last night. Gosh knows what’s squiggling around in there by now. Might have an invasion of horrible little bugs any minute.”
A bedroom door squeaked open. Footsteps tromped down the hall. A definite harumph as the bag was lifted. The kitchen door creaked and then slammed shut.
Oh, dang, now I’ve gone and made him mad.
A flash of color from the laptop on the table caught her eye. An advertisement for athletic weights? What—? She remembered that Rodney was now on a health kick and figured that he’d been searching for equipment. But how’d his stuff get on my account? She shook her head. The internet confused her. Worldwide web indeed! Caught us like flies, it has.
The door opened and pounding feet now echoed down the hall, toward her. Rodney stopped on the threshold. “I’m going out with Kyle in a few minutes. You’ve got everything you need?”
Esmerelda blinked. She had something important to tell him—what was it?
She looked around her room, struggling to remember. Her dresser was piled high with clothes folded but not put in their proper drawers because she wanted to do it herself. Her sons Rodney and Kyle, and even her daughter Stella, were too apt to just shove them in any which way.
Her desk lay barren since she couldn’t do her usual work, being unable to maneuver her books and files. Besides, she couldn’t seem to finish anything of late. A few edits here and there but nothing more. She forgot the storyline before she got to the end of the page.
She scratched her head.
As if in sympathy, Rodney rubbed his chin.
The computer screen flashed swirling colors, sparking her memory. “Were you searching for something on my computer? I am getting ads for things you’d want, not anything I’d like.”
Rodney smiled. “Ma, you buy stuff for us. You never buy anything for yourself.”
That made sense. Relieved from the fear of personal invasion or a computer mix-up where she’d end up with a truckload of athletic equipment, she leaned in and scrutinized the screen. “There was something here…you should know…”
Rodney shifted off the doorframe and edged into the room. He swung over to her chair and leaned down, peering at the screen. “You’ve got the weather forecast up. Are you worried about the weather?”
A flash ignited Esmerelda’s dim mind. “Yes! A huge snowstorm is coming. You better go shopping early. But…” Something else. Images swirled, sending off alarm bells. “There’s going to be a flood—I saw it. Rain and storms and a wall of water washing over the roads, heading down our lane. We have to get to higher ground. Tell Kyle and Stella to listen and do what I say. We need to get someplace safe.”
Instead of his usual snort and abrupt wave, Rodney seemed to be really listening this time. He tapped the screen. “There is a big snow coming. I didn’t realize it’d shifted in our direction. You’re right about the shopping. I’ll tell Kyle there’s a change of plans.” He patted her shoulder. “Thanks, Ma.”
But that wasn’t it. The snow was just the start. It was the flood that really mattered. It was going to be really bad. She’d seen it—somewhere. And with absolute certainty, she knew it was coming their way. Helpless dread filled her. No one believes me.
Her daughter, Stella, came in the evening, prompt as usual, bustled about the kitchen, and brought a tray in for dinner.
Esmerelda stuffed her crocheting in the handy pocket that hung from the chair arm. Her fingers were stiff and sore, though not as bad as her leg. She winced shifting her weight to accommodate the rolling table where Stella set her dinner.
“It’s still bothering you? Ma, I wish you’d go in and let the doctor take another look at that.”
The smell of chicken and broccoli wafted to Esmerelda’s nose, brightening her mood. “My mom used to make the most wonderful pot pies from chicken and broccoli.”
A flicker of a frown passed over Stella’s face. “Didn’t you hear me? You should go back to the doctor about your leg. Kyle can take you Monday.”
Scooping up a bite of the chopped chicken swimming in gravy, Esmerelda concentrated on keeping her hand steady. “There’s going to be a flood on Monday. We’ll have to get to high ground.”
Stella leaned in and stared close into her mom’s face.
Affronted, Esmerelda pulled back. The chicken pieces dropped off her fork. Disgusted, Esmerelda snorted. “You brought me a nice dinner, now let me eat it.”
Stella straightened, propping her hands on her hips.
The dinner was delicious, and the room grew warm, quite comfortable in fact. Drowsiness calmed her and settled her old body deep into the chair.
Footsteps approached. Voices murmured.
Rodney’s deep tones lowered to a whisper. “She told you about the flood, too?”
“Uh, huh. I don’t know what’s going on with her. It’s like she’s in her own little universe.” Stella didn’t even try to lower her voice.
Kyle, excited as always, had to put in his two cents. “She’s been acting weird ever since she took that bus trip with her club. You remember—went someplace south.”
Stella explained her version. “To the hills, met with old folksingers and such. Had a wonderful time, she told me. But that’s when she hurt her leg, climbing down from the bus.”
Rodney’s heavy tread stepped nearer. His breath felt heavy on her face. “You asleep, Ma?”
Esmerelda kept her eyes closed and waved languidly. “You all go on talking as if I’m already dead. It’s all right. I’ll get a preview of what’s coming.”
Kyle laughed outright.
Rodney’s breath stayed close. “Don’t say that, Ma.”
Esmerelda opened her eyes and struggled to sit up. The sincerity in her son’s tone shocked her. “Why not? You all will be relieved when I’m gone. Less burden to manage. I know what’s happening. And so do you.”
A slingshot could not have propelled Stella any faster. She was on her knees at her mom’s side within seconds. “Ah, Honey, don’t talk like that. We joke around about old people but we don’t mean you.”
Kyle sauntered closer. “Sure, Ma. It’s not like there’s an inheritance or anything.”
Rodney’s head whipped around. Grimness emanating from him.
Stella did one better and slapped Kyle’s leg.
Suddenly the dream came thundering back into Esmerelda’s brain. “There’s a wall of water rolling toward us from up the lane, and you three just playing in the road. You don’t see it, or you don’t care. Either way—you won’t listen to me.”
Stella patted her mom’s hand. “We’re worried about you, Ma.” She glanced back at her brothers. “I’m going to take you to the doctor tomorrow. See what he says. You’ve never been a worrier before. Something must be wrong.”
Esmerelda shook her head. It was no use. They’d just try to fix her when it was long past time for that. It was them that needed saving.
She looked out the window at the winter landscape. Snow fell in fat flakes, covering the backyard with round white mounds. Nothing lasts forever. Not even the seasons. An ache filled her throat. But there was nowhere for it to go.
Rodney stood on the right of Stella with Kyle on her left. Dressed in their best, they listened to the priest intone prayers for the dead at the graveside gathering.
The shiny tombstone stood front and center: Esmerelda Espiritu and Lawrence MacDougal.
Once the final prayers were complete, the assembly peeled off to the gathering at the church hall.
Stella dried her eyes, linked arms with Kyle, and started forward.
Rodney clasped her arm and held her back. He lifted a yellowed piece of paper. “Hang on. I have something to show you.” His hands shook as he unfolded the weathered notepaper.
Kyle leaned in. “Looks old.” He smirked. “You brought one of your teen introspective pieces to mom’s funeral?”
Ignoring his brother, Rodney held the paper far enough away to read without his glasses. “It’s ma’s. She wrote it years ago. I just found it when I was clearing out her stuff.”
“Took you long enough to get her room clean. I thought you were going to leave it as a shrine to her memory or something.”
Stella thwacked her younger brother and then faced her older brother. “Go on, Rod. What does it say?”
Rodney cleared his throat. “It’s a poem, and it explains a lot. Just thought you’d like to know.” He swallowed hard and read.
For My Children
Know that I have held you in my heart,
Even when miles apart.
Know that come hell or high water,
You are my sons and my daughter.
Torrential rains and hurricane winds,
My love never dim’d.
In the floods of life,
Court not strife,
Seek high ground.
For in the noble, good, and true
You’ll find what we most often seek
Me and you.
Nothing lasts, ask not the reason,
Endings come to all,
May God above take you by the hand.
Be ready to leave your games—no matter how grand.
For too oft we forget,
The flood always comes around.
Seek High ground.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
Make the most of life’s journey.
For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page