It was the year the Pearl River flooded the trailer park and the worms rose to the surface in writhing masses of bubblegum pink. The man from the bait shop paid us a dollar for each bucket full. I didn’t think to ask why until it was night and he was gone and I had to cry myself to sleep alone because I didn’t want anyone knowing I was so sorry about a bunch of worms.
We hadn’t been in the trailer park more than three months when the water started to rise. It was the first placed we’d lived in years that had a real shower and heat instead of just a bathtub and cold that never stopped even when you were in bed. If we had been there as long as Mrs. Gilruth or the Pinkneys we would have expected its slow wet creep up and over the thin asphalt, cracked with weeds, of what passed for streets. It smelled like dead fish and moss.
“Every four years, like clockwork,” is what Mrs. Gilruth told my mother, nodding like she knew everything about everything and we should all just agree already. But if she knew so much, why was she still living here where the water could get her?
At first we made a game of it, hopping from dry spot to dry spot, laughing at those who got trapped on shrinking desert islands. By the third day there were no more dry spots and we had to navigate the thin strips and canals between moored, anchored barges like a trashy trailer park Venice.
When the water got as high as the first back step, the adults began to whisper about leaving. ‘Evacuating’ was the word they used that I had to look up. I heard her on the phone with my grandmother whispering about money, clothes, and our dog Lulu. I was used to leaving, but this was too soon. This was the first place in years that wasn’t someone else’s farm far from everyone with frozen pipes in the winter. There were other kids here and one of them was in accelerated classes like I was, but she was even smarter. Or that’s what she told me.
It was her idea to set sail. I would have never thought of it, so scared of being left behind during one of my mother’s spontaneous moves that I had nightmares every night of running after a pickup truck loaded with my furniture and family. My brother holding his hand out for me to grab onto, always just out of reach. Jenny pointed out that it was different if I was the one doing the leaving and besides, we probably wouldn’t get very far.
We knew we wouldn’t have much time. The parents were already talking about evacuating as if it was a real thing and the water wasn’t high enough yet.
“The third step,” is all she said and we watched the water, keeping another eye on our restless mothers who had already brought in the dog and the lawn furniture.
It would be her trailer because her Dad was a trucker and a survival freak. He’d waterproofed everything with plastic and silicone even if it wasn’t to keep the water out.
“He thinks they’ll attack us with nerve gas,” she said as if this were simultaneously the most normal and stupid thing she’d ever heard.
“Who?” I asked, but she didn’t answer.
We gathered supplies: flashlights, a tent, sleeping bags, water and food. I already had a pocket knife with a can opener that I carried around everywhere I went. We didn’t bother with clothes or underwear.
“We can wash them in the river,” she said and I thought that was the most brilliant idea ever. “Just go for a swim and, boom, they’re washed!”
“We could fish for our food!” I said and her eyes went wide like they always did when she was surprised. When someone thought of something she hadn’t, which hardly ever happened.
But getting the fishing rods wasn’t easy. My brother wanted to know what I was doing with them and then decided I was going fishing without him, which made him so mad he looked like he might start crying. I thought about lying to him because I didn’t want to share this with anyone, but I remembered the dream and his hands reaching for me from the back of the truck.
“If you say a word to anyone, you’re out,” I said in my meanest voice through clenched teeth. His eyes were wide as he nodded.
I was worried that Jenny would be mad, but she acted like she’d been expecting it. Like she’d planned from the beginning on it not being just the two of us and that made me angry for no good reason. I threw the fishing rods down and stomped off, brown water splashing around my rubber boots.
“What?” she called after me and I smiled at least at the surprise in her voice. She wasn’t expecting that.
By the time the water reached the third step we’d made up. We’d also spent a lot of time convincing my mother to stay long enough.
When we cut the trailer loose to drift with the floodwater, it didn’t feel much different than standing still. It rocked a little, but not much more than a strong wind at night. It moved so slow: no one noticed until it was too late and we were already on our lazy, swaying way to somewhere else.
Untitled by Melissa Moorer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.knownforms.com.