THE WATER HIT

I’ve always been fascinated by ladies who grow their hair long. I mean like REALLY long. I saw one of these special ladies a couple of hours ago at the grocery store. This lady would stand out anywhere anyway but happened to be walking in front of me in the parking lot as I followed her through the automatic glass doors into the store. I watched her long, long ponytail the whole time. She had four different colored “scrunchie” things to keep it all together, as this lady’s hair went down past her ass! Once in the store, the lady and I were stopped short by a crowd of people and some confusion. I shoulda known something unusual was up right then, but it honestly never crossed my mind.

I had been too transfixed by the ponytail.

The lady with the long hair turned around and noticed me. It was then that I saw she was Hawaiian or Polynesian or from South America perhaps. She had a big smile and was rotund in a very cheerful and comforting way. “Guess the line is long huh?”

“Line for what?” I asked. I just got back to town from a nice week of camping in the West Virginia woods, totally removed from any society. It was so necessary. And now I was sunburnt to all hell and feeling fussy and so ready to get into my air-conditioned house for nice cold shower, some good kickback time, and then bed.

My patience had worn thin.

“What do you mean ‘line for what?'” she asked. “For the hand sanitizer of course. People been going crazy all day trying to get at some–all day they said on the news–cause of the germs ya know. And this store,” she craned her neck to see past the crowd, “I’m sure this store is already plumb cleaned out out of everything. And I gotta stock up!” She threw up her hands and shook her head and looked skeptical that things would turn out well.

I nodded, then shimmied past her and the rest of the hand sanitizer-line people. What’s with the sanitizer? How strange. I think that lady had a screw loose. You sure do meet a lot of characters out in public.

And cause of what germs?

There was indeed a brouhaha at the hand sanitizer station. I could only shake my head. THAT wasn’t gonna turn out well. I grabbed a cart and started down the aisle. The store was indeed barren, if not “cleaned out”, like the Polynesian woman said. As a matter of fact, there wasn’t even any coffee to on the shelves, and that was my main reason for even being here.

I’m gonna have to talk to someone about that.

I got a few things to tide me over, most importantly a case of PBRs for the kickback time, and proceeded to the checkout line. Every line in the store was at least twenty people deep, including the line I found myself in. On their carts were gallons of orange juice and milk, cartons of eggs, bread, bottles of water, flashlights, tarps for some reason. And cases of hand sanitizer.

Something’s wrong.

The Polynesian woman got into line behind me. I noticed she loaded up on lots of staple items too. I turned around and nodded, then turned to survey the scene. People were quietly huddled together, some whispering, some with kids close by getting restless. I turned to the Polynesian woman.

She’d been watching me, perfectly composed.

“If you don’t mind me saying so,” I said, “I’ve been out of town. Did I miss something while I was gone?”

“Did you miss something?” she looked thoughtful. “You mean, you don’t know?”

“Know what?”

“It’s been all over the news. We have to evacuate. Everyone from the top of the mountain down into these foothills. They been saying that people gotta go over to the valley, if they could. But I guess these people around here, it looks like they’re gonna stick it out, wouldn’t ya say?”

I had no idea what she was talking about. I had no idea what she was talking about since I laid eyes on her actually. Her and her unusually long hair. “Ma’am I’m sorry. I’ve been gone.” I rubbed my chin while I stared into her pink and chubby, lit up face. “Bad storm?”

“Huh?”

“Was there bad weather? Or terrorists? Some disaster? Ma’am, if you don’t mind, could you tell me what’s going on?”

She looked satisfied that I’d ask. I guess it was obvious I was clueless.

The Polynesian woman huddled in close to me. “Son, the water hit.”

“The water hit?”

“Yeh it hit. And it’s on its way here right now, coming up the James. It hit in Virginia Beach and went up into the Chesapeake already and is expected over the next couple of hours to hit DC. It’s following the James this away.” She looked around conspiratorally and said in a hush,”It’s already covered Newport News, Williamsburg and Richmond-well they’re not sure where it is right now exactly. That lady back there,” she pointed toward the back of the store, “that lady said her sister-in-law lives in Hampton and the phones gotta be dead cause she’s been trying and trying her. She doesn’t think there’s anyway they could have got out. You know how those Hurricane Evacuation Routes are anyway, down all those small country roads that go over all that water? People ain’t never gonna get outta there!” She eyeballed me. “Hey, you gotta move up now son.” The line was moving but I wasn’t. The overhead lights flickered on and off and there was a collective “WHOA”. I was glued to my spot in a suspended moment.

Surreal.

“They’re predicting by the end of all this, the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains is gonna be beach front property. Can you believe that? Come on son, move up in line. The government’s been on TV all day telling people to get over the mountain as quickly as possible. And a man at the bus stop outside was saying there’s been looting already. The people on the news say the interstate’s backed up over 400 miles already.”

I interrupted her. “Ma’am? What are you saying, underwater? We’re gonna be underwater here?”

“Yeh, underwater. And the interstate’s back up over 400 miles already did you hear me? So the way I see it we can’t leave anyway. I know somebody somewhere must have built an ark, I mean all kinds of people been saying since forever we humans were gonna have to face such a thing again. Are you religious son?”

The Polynesian woman with the hair down below her ass was being so pleasant and conversational and casual it suddenly sickened me. She became the soundtrack on the peripheries of my mind, as the people in the store blurred over and my face ached trying to comprehend the gravity of the situation here. The Polynesian woman looked at me deadpan and let out a hollow and menacing laugh.

I looked down at the ground at her sandals and her pretty-painted Polynesian toes. She tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Son, did you hear me? The water hit. And the line’s moving, we gotta go.”

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