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

But there was also, of course, some great stuff from the '70s and early '80s, and lots of her Iggy Pops and my Elvis Costellos were now feeding the fish.

Also on the seafloor of that room, we knew, were clips from her days with The Dallas Morning News and just about every column I had written for the late Public News, soon to be congealed into one block of soggy pulp when the waters receded.

Which the waters showed no sign of doing. Outside, as the wee hours turned into the wee, wee hours, the rain continued to come down. The street outside was now pretty much a fast-rolling river. It had overwhelmed our Honda, which now sat beneath the waves, its car alarm forlornly bleating, the lights flashing dimly beneath the surface. We had some hope that the trunk might be watertight and therefore the Palm Pilot inside it might be saved; the Flood God took care of that hope by having the waters force the trunk open, scattering the contents to no one knows where. The truck too was soon a total loss.

Somehow our house, which sits at the end of a block, was getting a double whammy: The water was flowing from the bayou east to west in the street in front, then hooking up with another river of a street on the side of our house, there to flow through our backyard west to east as it sought out a nearby drainage culvert to the bayou.

By now the water inside was thigh-high. In the kitchen, it had begun to lap at the top of the counter, tragically disturbing the nap of Josie the cat.

Josie's cat mind came to the conclusion that she was in great danger in the kitchen while we were somehow in the next room perfectly safe and dry. If only she whined and mewed enough, she reasoned, we backward humans would bring her into the dry room with us, where she could resume her napping. We would bring along her food bowl, too, of course.

This thought process resulted in the second most desultory conversation of the long night. Josie would cry and cry and cry to the point where my wife would burst, "Just shut up, Josie"; Josie interpreted this communication as meaning "We're comin' to get ya, gal, just hold on! Keep crying so we know where you are!"

My wife then asked me if we had some sort of evacuation plan. Sure, of course, I said, I had been working on that evacuation plan for months, it was a helluva plan, a thing of beauty, really. It's around here somewhere.

Maybe it was just faith brought on by exhaustion, but I was convinced that the waters would simply not get high enough to cause us any physical danger. It made no sense, I decided, to wade outside into the fast-moving stuff, as opposed to sitting inside with some protection. If the water somehow got up to our chests, I'd go digging to find that evacuation plan.

Luckily, it never got that far. The waters kept rising, but at a slower pace. The rain eased off. There was even a hint of dawn in the sky.

There was little to do but look out the window as things slowly got lighter, thus bringing us to the Potentially Religious Moment, Bypassed. My wife and I were looking outside at the river, now flowing somewhat more slowly than before. And there, coming from the east, carried along by the tide, was a large woven basket topped with a handle. It was a perfect replica of the basket that had carried Moses to his adoptive mother, at least as depicted in that scholarly work The Prince of Egypt. We looked at each other as the basket bumped up against our car and was momentarily entangled.

Was this a sign? Should one of us wade out there to see if a new Prophet had been brought forth to save the world from its antediluvian sin?

Nah, we decided. We weren't up to helping to save the world. We just wanted to save our house.

Moses, or the empty basket, was soon replaced by canoeists paddling up and down the street as the sun came out in force. They rescued our next-door neighbors, who had taken to their roof in the middle of the night, huddling against the chimney through the sheeting rain and incessant lightning with their two preschoolers and, as it turns out, our other cat, Tobi.

Still the water kept rising, even without the rain. It began to go above our front windows, giving us an aquariumlike look at the undersea world outside. We waited for the windows to crash and the water to pour in, but it never happened.

Then, about midmorning, we realized that the waters had indeed stopped rising. And then -- so, so, so slowly -- the flood began to recede. It took hours, hours filled with yet again little to do but watch as the heaviest furniture settled where it lay.

Seeing as how the water seemed to be incrementally flowing toward the rear of the house, I opened the back door. The incremental flow increased to a noticeable surge.

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