Enormous mushrooms have sprouted all over the yard since the floodwaters instructed the organism underground to bear fruit. A fungus that looks like sprayed whipped cream, congealed, has colonized the window wells. Piles of sopping debris, carpet, and drywall on the driveway leak water into the street.
Morning shows the damage the flood left behind, the missing walls, the sodden carpet, the mildew growing in powdery drifts throughout the basement, the toys heaped in the garage. Outside, morning light hits the Porta Potties, the overflowing industrial-sized dumpsters, pumps gushing water, and wedding dresses hanging to dry in front of neighbors’ homes. In the kitchen, the stacks of FEMA forms, insurance papers, bills, contractor business cards, and letters from the mortgage company that must have been written by Kafka or Orwell clutter the table where breakfast should be. It all makes me want to return to the second before I woke, when I’d forgotten what we’d lost, before consciousness brought awareness crashing down heavy on my chest. It still sat hard on me, the rain that fell those eight days, dumping more water on Boulder, Colorado than has ever been recorded in such a short span.
But morning also brings the sunrise on the mountains, the only thing looming taller than the piles of flood debris. At daybreak, the children emerge from their rooms sweet and soft and warm, their footed pajamas strewn in little piles around the house like discarded snakeskins, the exhaustion that pounded me when I put them to bed eased away, leaving me glad to see them again, to kiss the napes of their necks. Then comes the rush of cereal and cartoons and brushing my daughter’s hair into a ponytail before the school bus arrives, taking her hand and walking outside to meet it.
Sun and mountains are Colorado’s endless consolations. How people survive in flat, cloudy places is a mystery to those of us who are solar-powered, and I can’t guess how the cloud-encumbered ever muster the will to dry out or move onward from disaster.
Nature keeps no promises, but this morning starts to lull me back into believing that it will. My son and I won’t go downstairs today — we’ve memorized the destruction there. Instead we’ll go outside, where the sky is now benign and blue. We will let the sun on our skin warm us and help us forget for a while.
JENNY SHANK‘s first novel, The Ringer, won the High Plains Book Award in fiction and was a finalist for the MPIBA award. Her fiction, essays, satire, and reviews appear in The Atlantic, The Guardian, McSweeney’s, The McSweeney’s Book of Politics and Musicals, The Onion, Poets & Writers, Bust, Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Five Chapters. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, and son, and they still haven’t managed to fix their flood-damaged basement.