Short Story Friday: Irma

A short story about a family rebuilding after the strike of a hurricane.

I wake up with a start. The obnoxiously loud clanking of metal wakes me up. My father is taking down the storm shutters. The heat is beginning to register in my room, the smallest room in the whole house. I get up, thinking of taking a shower, only to realize that the water had been cut off the night before.

Everyone is moving around, but with no particular enthusiasm. Even the cat meowed softly as if knowing he was in no position to demand high maintenance.

I opened the kitchen door, the only one that wasn't blocked off, and stepped outside. The cat, Anthony, followed me out to inspect the damages. The quenepa tree was still standing, but some heavy branches blocked the way downstairs.

My father shouted something at me about going back inside, but I saw what he had tried to shield me from.

Our dog, Anatole, had been killed by one of the fallen branches. He probably started running around in panic… Dear God.

Anthony meowed at the corpse. My stomach filled with dread. I felt my father's hand on my shoulder.

“Let's go out and find some coffee, yeah?” he said softly.

“Kay,” I agreed numbly.

My father began to whack and chop away at the branches blocking the stairs. We still didn't know if the cars were okay. I began to change my clothes, Anthony at my heels, staining the fool with his blood-soaked paws and asking for breakfast.

“In a minute,” I told him, offering him a knuckle, which he nuzzled. He began to purr and I noticed it sounded very similar to the generators that roared along the street.

My father called me down. We were leaving now. I quickly served Anthony his food, scratching him behind the ear. He closed his eyes and turned to smell his food.

The stairs were plastered with leaves, which would have to be cleaned up later. I heard the car's engine roar to life and I walked past Anatole with a heavy heart to open the gate manually.

I climbed into the car and heard the song "Y, ¿si fuera ella?" by Alejandro Sanz. My father was trying to cheer me up. He smiled at me and asked: “Where to first?”

“Vega Alta,” I replied.

 

Sea lo que quiera Dios que sea, mi delito es la torpeza de ignorar…

 

We saw all the branches and trees on the road and the electric wire that was tangled and damaged. It would be a while before we saw the local news on television or even watched Norsemen on Netflix. We passed a few restaurants that were closed, but Pico Rico was open, and so was New China Res. But my father groaned over the loudspeaker now playing Último momento. Azucá! was closed as well.

 

Si vas a irte… vete, pero no te despidas. Sal de noche, sal a oscuras, sal descalza y de puntillas, niña. Vete, vete y cierra la puerta, que no quiero verte salir de mi vida.

 

Because of the damage, we took longer than usual. I really wanted to go near the mall, because my twin brother had stayed with our mother. I checked the service and surprisingly had two bars. La red más poderosa, no joke. I sent my brother a text and it marked delivered. Dad noticed my concern.

“He’s probably sleeping. You know him,” he said in an effort to keep me calm. “Let’s check out Vega Baja.”

“Yes, please,” I said, now thinking of a few friends that lived in the area.

On our way, Dad’s cell phone began to ring. He was hard of hearing and didn’t register the sound… plus he was kinda lost in the song.

 

¿Quién me va a entregar sus emociones? ¿Quién me va a pedir que nunca le abandone? ¿Quién me tapará esta noche si hace frío? ¿Quién me va a curar el corazón parti’o? ¿Y llenará de primaveras este enero? ¿Y bajará la luna para que juguemos?

 

“DAD!” I shouted, laughing. “YOUR PHONE.”

“ANSWER IT,” he shouted back as trumpets blasted out the speakers. I lowered the volume of the radio.

“Bueno,” I answered.

“Yeah, uh, bueno. Is David there?” a guy answered.

“He’s driving, who’s this?”

“Uh, it’s Morales. Uh, Eric Morales. We’re contacting everyone to see if someone can come to relieve us. We’ve been here thirty hours holding down the fort. You guys ok?”

“Not that bad could’ve been worse,” I told him. “Let me pass you the phone.”

“Sure.”

“Dad,” I handed him the phone. “Morales.”

“What’s up?” Dad spoke into the phone. “Yeah? Oh, God. Thirty hours? Wow… you’re kidding! St. Thomas? I forgot we had a clinic there… nothing left, huh? Yeah, I’ll see what I can do… sure, you guys take care. Bye.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked him.

He sighed. “The clinic in St. Thomas is completely destroyed. They’re going to send some of us out to rebuild what we can,” he paused and joked: “The upside is we get overtime and stay in nice hotels and you guys get to stay a few weeks with Mom.”

I groaned. He laughed is his hearty way.

“It’s not that bad and I don’t leave right away,” he said. Dad was a woodworker at the Hospital of Veterans in San Juan; he usually didn’t leave the Island much, if at all.

 

We kept driving, Dad tapping his fingers against the steering wheel, occasionally hitting the dashboard to a hard beat in one of the songs. He was a joyful dreamer, my father. Even in this mess.

We stopped at our favorite coffee shop, Café y más…, and they were closed.

“Well, this is beginning to frustrate,” my father said, climbing back inside the car. “Maybe SuperMax is open…”

Dad parked at SuperMax and told me to come down with him. He was sure the café here was open. As we walked the lot, he extended his pinky to me and I held it as I always did. I never really grew out holding my dad’s hand.

We walked in and air conditioning greeted us. My father led me to the little coffee shop in the back and we waited our turn in line.

“Same ole, same ole?” I asked Dad as I checked the message Louis had just sent.

“Yeah, you?” Dad said.

“Yeah.”

I opened the chat and read the message: Sorry. Was asleep. You guys okay?

I replied: Yeah. went out for coffee

Louis: didn't a HURRICANE just wreck the island?!?

Me: Yes. Your point?

Louis: Don’t have one I guess

Me: Mom okay?

Louis: Yeah. Tony and Tole?

“That your brother?” Dad asked.

“Yeah, he’s asking about Anatole…” I told him.

“Oh, well, he should know,” Dad said. “Two lattes and two toast, one light on the butter.”

“Not over text, though,” I said.

“Call him then,” Dad said.

Louis: ???

“Crap,” I began to dial his number, but he called first.

“What the hell happened?” he greeted.

“Morning, brother,” I said.

“What happened?”

“A tree hit Anatole,” I said as softly as possible. “He’s dead.”

“Aw, shit,” he whined.

“I’m sorry, Lou,” I sighed. He hung up.

“How’d he take it?” Dad asked.

“He hung up.”

“So not well.”

“Yeah.”

We took our food and sat down at a table in the corner. The rest of the morning we listened to some man go on and on about his brother, who was a saint and model citizen and even though he had other siblings, Toño the Saint was an exception. That Toño was on a high pedestal for that guy. All that talk about brothers made me think of my own. He was probably crying, telling Mom that his dog had died. It was going to be a while before my brother or this Island felt any better.