Fiction, Vol. 5.2, June 2011
Sunlight filtered through gray-blue thunderheads sailing ominously over Miami and into the house where Brandon half-innocently watched the TV stations climb toward porn.
Three thousand miles away, his parents awoke to breakfast in bed, hung over from a night of steaks and sawed-in-half women on the Vegas strip, rekindling the flame their boy’s birth had dimmed. They’d left him with Abuela, who was not home watching her grandson, but at a strip mall across town losing badly at Bingo.
Abuela only meant to be gone an hour, but the rains had so slowly accumulated during the week that a sudden downpour this afternoon pushed the city’s drainage system to its limit and the streets of unincorporated Dade began to flood.
News choppers were dispatched. Aerial shots revealed stalled-out cars, window-deep in water, their tops resembling polished stones.
Brandon worked the remote control from the comfortable depths of the recliner in which Abuela had left him with a plate of tamales and a cup of Coke. He stopped flipping at the sight of his own house, the rooftop littered with Frisbees and melted army men. The camera zoomed out over the neighborhood, the surrounding streets, whole blocks like islands with water encroaching upon the lawns, and it did not strike him that this was all happening live until the screen went black with a static hiss and the air conditioner came to a gurgling halt and he was bored.
With silver trays on their laps, naked beneath the silk sheets of a heart-shaped bed, Brandon’s parents watched the same footage as the camera further retreated over their neighborhood. Not a mile from home, the canal was no longer discernable from the road that ran beside it and, in the confusion of boundaries, cars plunged nose-first into its waters, gators waded lazily on the banks of front lawns, and looters carried spoils out of submerged strip malls: one man sprinted across the parking lot with a boom box, taking wide strides and appearing to run atop the water like a kind of lizard; another man patiently humped a washing machine; a group of children dumped bags of potato chips into the hull of an inflatable raft, preparing to set sail with their palm-frond paddles.
Her husband of seven years wore a rather aloof expression. “How sensational,” he groaned, reaching for the remote. Her eyes flashed daggers more convincing than those inserted into the magician’s assistant last night. “This is no time to be cynical. This is happening,” she said. But as information flooded the newsroom—flotsam phrases like “National Guard” and “martial law”—her heart began to jump like a roulette ball spinning around the wheel of her ever-shifting emotions. Fixated on the image of the current, created by the downdrafts of news choppers, she wasn’t sure what to believe.
From his rooftop, Brandon surveyed the damage through the stinging rain. Branches parted from trees, their leafy debris swarming in a tantrum of wind. Fence posts, patio chairs and satellite dishes spiraled precariously on the water’s surface before succumbing to the depths. The world was a child’s messy bedroom.
Brandon would have no trouble navigating this new landscape. With a palm-frond in his hands and trowel between his teeth, he would sail to all the unimagined places such disasters reveal.