by Sandi Klug-Lard, contributing author, In the Aftermath of the Storm
“I found a massive dead rat in the shed,” my husband said by way of greeting. Jesse stood in the doorway leading to our backyard, his black hair wet with humidity and sweat.
“That’s disgusting.” I crinkled my nose.
“Come look at it.” He gestured behind him.
“No!” I stood up from my work at the table and walked to the kitchen. “Remember when you worked at the Mill and you sent me a text of that mouse caught in the trap! I’m scarred for life!”
“Yeah.” Jesse laughed. “That was before trigger warnings. Well, come help me anyway. It’s about to rain.”
“No, it isn’t.”
Jesse pulled on my arm and pointed to a dark cloud in the distance. Thunder rolled with emphasis. “Yes, it is.”
I went to put on my shoes while Jesse turned to finish his work outside. We had been working to clean out the shed, one of our last projects to complete since the hurricane happened nine months ago.
I walked out the back door and looked at the piles stretched out on the lawn.
“So what’s the plan?” I asked Jesse.
He began counting on his fingers. “Trash is one pile. Keep. Sell.”
We worked in silence for a while as the sky darkened around us.
“We should figure out how that rat got in,” I said.
“I already looked. It shouldn’t have been able to get in.”
“Hmmm,” I pondered. “It must have happened when we left the door open for a bit after the storm, to let everything dry out.”
The sky opened up then.
“Leave what’s trash outside!” I yelled over the wind. “Sell pile to carport and Keep pile to shed!”
We hurried but were soaked to the bone in less than a minute. Florida summer showers take no prisoners for the fifteen minutes they last.
I glanced over to my magnolia tree, a branch hung loose and swayed under the weight of the rain. It had split in half after the hurricane and my husband wanted to cut it down, but it was still growing. Maybe next summer I’d see my flowers again.
I noticed Jesse standing in the shed. He was no longer making an effort to be out in the rain helping me move items. Instead, he stood in the doorway while I handed him things to put away.
“I see you’ve given up!” I said teasingly.
“You know I don’t like being rained on!”
A flash of memory, two teenagers playing in the rain.
“That’s enough. Let’s go inside!” Jesse yelled.
He set off at a fast pace through the grey mist while I trudged along, squinting towards the sky. My leggings stuck to my thighs like paste, my tank top hanging loosely around my shoulders. I raised my chin and put my arms out, catching the water before it hit the ground. I was a living fountain, every stream of water pouring off me in a steady flow.
Isn’t it funny how people run from the rain but pay to go to waterparks?
It’s not that we don’t like the rain, we just don’t like the unexpected. We like to know when we’re going to get wet, thank you very much. We like to pencil it into our schedules, not be surprised by it during chores or walking to our cars with bags of groceries. It’s like paying money to watch a horror film. We like to be thrilled but on our own terms with no real threat of danger.
I knew real fear. Being huddled in a small, stuffy room with a mattress pressed against a window. That was fear.
I knew storms, and this rain shower was no threat to me.
“What are you still doing out there?” My husband called from the door. He was standing in a new pair of boxers, his hair spiked up.
I walked over to the tree swing we put in for the kids. They lost their playhouse in the hurricane, so we installed the swing beneath our Pecan tree a few months later when we moved back in.
I positioned myself on the circular swing seat, the ropes digging into my skin.
“Come push me!’ I shouted.
My husband hung his head, but I had no doubt that he would come to me. He put his head down and walked quickly through the sheets of water.
Standing beneath the leafy canopy, he gave me a push.
“Wheeee!!!!” And I laid back on the swing.
A memory. Two sleeping teenagers in a grey Kia.
“You remember our first date?” I said, the motion of the swing making me dreamily dizzy.
Jesse sighed. “Yes, I do.”
“Applebee’s. I didn’t want to go to work, so we went to the bridge after. It started to rain.”
“I got out of the car to look out at the Bay. You hated it; I could tell.”
“But I followed you.”
“And you kissed me. Then we fell asleep in your Kia.”
“I was not happy about your cutting work.”
“I hated that job anyway.” I smiled. “It was a good day.”
The thunder rolled.
“Mom! Dad!” Our son called from the door. “What are you doing?”
“PLAYING!” I yelled back.
“You guys are weird.” He shut the sliding glass door on our trip down memory lane.
“Can we go inside now?” My husband asked.
I put out my legs for him to catch, slowing me down. I stood up and looked at my husband. A little older. But not to me. To me, he was the guy who would always follow me into the rain, and tolerate it for my sake. And I kissed him, right there in the backyard of the home we made together. Soaking wet, cold and shivering.
I could have sworn lightning shot through the sky then, a glow of energy that seemed to say—”We are here. We are here. We are here.”
For a flash, a vapor of a moment, we’re here. We live our lives, tell our stories and love our people well.
Like a Florida summer shower.
In the Eye of the Storm, published in January, 2019 tells the story of Hurricane Michael’s brutal landfall along the Panhandle of Florida on October 10, 2018. A collection of poetry, stories, and images from survivors and residents, In the Eye of the Storm gives readers a poignant account of the events leading up to and in the days and weeks following the Category 5 hurricane’s destruction of the region.
In the Aftermath of the Storm, released on October 10, 2019, the one-year anniversary of the day that changed the region and the lives of its residents forever, picks up where the first book ended. Telling the stories of hope, healing, and community, In the Aftermath of the Storm captures the resilience and determination of the residents and the many volunteers who continued to make a difference long after the camera crews had gone and the outside world had moved on.
Both books are available through Amazon with all proceeds benefiting the Hurricane Michael Relief Fund, which continues to assist in relief and rebuilding efforts throughout the area. The books are also available locally at Cher’s Hallmark in Lynn Haven and at the United Way of Northwest Florida offices in downtown Panama city.