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

There really was nothing to do now but wait and see how bad things would get. The lights in the house were on -- it didn't seem worth it to wade out to the backyard, stand in deep water and flip the breakers -- thus giving us a great view of the ever-rising water.

So I'm sitting there, cursing the Rain God for the 2,348th time, wondering just what an utter pain it's going to be to clean all this crap up, when my wife gasps and suddenly blurts out news of a new Code Red emergency.

Mark Poutenis
Mark Poutenis

Appliances sending out sparks? The smell of gas in the air? No.

"What about the cats?" she says.

She seems underwhelmed by my initial response: "What about them?"

For whatever deep, twisted psychological reasons -- maybe I was abandoned by a cat at birth -- I am not a "pet person." I don't actually go around kicking cats or dogs, to be sure, but I'm not doing too much petting either.

I have for years made absolutely clear my strong and long-held belief that there's no way we will ever have a pet; this stern putting-down of the patriarch's foot has resulted in a compromise where we have two cats. Two cats that my wife and son adopted as strays, only to find out that they were both ridiculously allergic to the things.

So the cats stay outside. At least in theory. In reality, you cannot open one of our doors -- especially if you're trying to unload the car of a week's worth of grocery shopping -- without one of the damn things running into the house.

We all scream, "Josie, get out!" in the forlorn hope that her English skills have appreciably improved since yesterday's break-in. Even adding "Get out now!" fails to do the trick. And if you get one of the fuckers out the door, the other is sure to sneak in while you're busy.

So asking me "What about the cats" while I'm watching a foot of water pile into my home did not perhaps produce the desired reaction, which I assume was for me to yell, "Good God, you're right! How could I be so selfish? So worried just about my own species? I'm going out there right now to get soaking wet trying to herd up two cats I can't stand!"

Instead I shrugged my shoulders and offered what I thought was pretty damn unassailable logic: "They're cats, for crissake," I said. "They'll figure out a way to survive." (And if they didn't it would make my life easier, I somehow thought better not to add.)

This piercing logic had absolutely no effect on my wife, who sloshed to the back door and opened it to find Josie standing on a nearby table, mewing pitifully, the trademark feline arrogance all but forgotten. The other cat, Tobi -- the real asshole when it comes to ignoring plainly stated orders to stay out of the house -- was nowhere to be found.

She grabbed Josie, put her inside on the kitchen counter with a nice bowl of food (thus leaving her higher, dryer and far more comfortable than the rest of us) and then proceeded to spend far too much time worrying about Tobi.

To do this worrying, she retired with the rest of us to the dark main bedroom, where we could sit on the bed and get only our legs wet. Soon enough, though, the water had lapped over the bed's edge.

When we got up, we saw that our son could use the mattress as a raft, so we left him there, dozing, somewhat dry.

We waded into the living room, where the furniture was beginning to float. We each sat on an arm of the sofa, anchoring it to the ground. There was nothing to do but stare blankly and listen as yet another item somewhere in the house came crashing down when the furniture it was on became waterborne.

This, for lack of a better title, was the Beckett Interlude, our own little version of Wading for Godot. Conversation was, simply, scintillating:

ME: (For perhaps the 132nd time): If it would just stop raining, you know?

MY WIFE: [Doesn't respond.]

[A long pause ensues, the silence broken only by the endless goddamn rain outside the window. Suddenly a huge crash comes from the office, a crash loud enough that a day ago it would have had us madly dialing 911.]

MY WIFE: [Robotically] What do you think that was?

ME: [Robotically] I dunno.

[Another long pause ensues.]

MY WIFE: [Suddenly realizing something] GodDAMMIT!

ME: [No response.]

MY WIFE: God-fucking-dammit!

[A pause, while I slowly build up to the onerous task of fulfilling my husbandly duties by professing to care what could be the matter at this point.]

ME: [A huge sigh, indicative of just how much I am about to sacrifice.] What is it?

MY WIFE: I just realized my goddamn shoes were in the bottom of the closet! They're ALL ruined now!

ME: [A grunt of sympathy so subtle that hearing it would require the finest in sophisticated subaural listening devices.]

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