Wading for Godot

Allison arrived in a flood of thoughts -- mattress rafts, murky thigh-deep water and the sudden flotsam of family life rushing out the back door

Everyone has had a Bizarre Moment in life, a moment when you just step back and ask, "How the hell did I get in this situation?"

Often it'll come when you're attending the wedding, say, of two people you thought you knew well. Then the preacher announces that the loving couple have written their own vows, and that those vows are based on Time in a Bottle and the rest of Jim Croce's works.

Your brain scrambles as it tries to process the information: You're hearing "If words could make wishes come true" and "I would save every day till eternity passes" but -- somehow -- no one seems to be laughing.

You assess the situation -- you're in a suit and tie on a Saturday afternoon, you're stuck in a church surrounded by people thoughtfully nodding their heads at the homespun wisdom that is Jim Croce, and all you can do is go metaphysical on yourself and marvel at the strangeness of it all.

My own Bizarre Moment came sometime in the predawn hours of June 9, courtesy of Tropical Storm Allison.

I was standing in the middle of my living room, taking a leak. While normally pissing in the living room would be considered a social faux pas among the Smart Set -- unless your name is Jackson Pollock -- Miss Manners might have given me a pass this time, seeing as how I was thigh-high in fetid, brackish water that had spread throughout the house. Wading back to stand over a commode that was itself under water seemed somewhat pointless at the time.

I'm standing there whizzing, surrounded by large pieces of heavy furniture floating leisurely about as if on a pleasure cruise. Outside, my wife's car -- the one that just got $300 in repairs -- sits totally submerged, its burglar alarm gargling pitifully underneath the waves.

The rain continues to pound down in vicious sheets, showing no signs of letting up before we all go under. The only place to sit that's above water is a wooden barstool currently occupied by my fitfully dozing wife. My nine-year-old son is back in our bedroom, using our mattress as a raft to keep above the waves.

He's been occasionally nodding off; in the interludes he has been trying to distract himself by singing loudly to the new CD we have been playing incessantly lately.

So there I am, pissing in the living room, watching the incoming water slowly cover up more and more books and doodads and keepsakes, a raging river outside where our street used to be, my wife trying to sleep without slipping off her chair into the gross indoor lake, and I'm suddenly listening to the disembodied voice of a nine-year-old belting out Springtime for Hitler.

Bizarre Moment? Geez, I can only pray that my life never gets more bizarre than that.

Reader's Digest magazine used to have a feature -- hell, it may still have it, just like it may still have the ain't-bureaucracy-funny laffs of Humor in Uniform -- called Drama in Real Life.

The Drama in Real Life usually consisted of a small-plane crash in remote mountains, an overturned sailboat in a squall, or the stirring fight against time to save a child trapped in an collapsing building. There was always a Bible handy for inspiration, it seems, and inevitably a heartfelt moral to take away from the tale.

Being flooded out, at least as far as Allison went, is no Drama in Real Life. Instead, it is a tedious, monotonous nightlong Really, Really Annoying Event in Real Life. There are no rogue waves, no awe-inspiring walls of water looming overhead. You're not George Clooney and crew hanging on to a wildly flailing pole in The Perfect Storm; you're more Vladimir and Estragon, and instead of mouthing absurdist dialogue while you're Waiting for Godot, you're mumbling absurdist dialogue while you're Waiting for the Goddamn Rain to Stop.

Which, all too eventually, it does. At which point you wait endlessly for the water to recede out of your home, leaving you with a muck-filled house teeming with piles of useless furniture and a pack rat's detritus.

Instead of a moral, you're left with one thought: Jesus H. Christ, this is going to be one big pain in the ass to deal with.


The weekend began typically enough; as is our wont on Friday nights, we had gathered in the den to nibble petits fours and discuss Proust.

Or maybe my kid was in the den watching Lizzie McGuire on the Disney Channel while I was in the bedroom watching the NBA playoffs and my wife was in the living room watching something else (or, to give the benefit of the doubt, reading Proust).

I was mindlessly flipping through the channels, which is certainly more my wont than discussing dead French authors, and there seemed to be a whole lot of pictures of cars rolling through high water. On Channels 11 and 13, brow-furrowed anchors talked worriedly of rising waters in east and north Houston.

None of which concerned me in the least, so I continued to flip around, after condescendingly giving a microsecond's worth of thought to those poor folks who had haplessly chosen to live in the flooding areas.

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