Friday, April 27, 2018

Satan's Circus


The deck stood about twelve feet over the deep green, freshly mowed lawn.  White plastic furniture was tied to rails in anticipation of the coming storm.  Blake Robbins and his Weather Team 10,  had forecast the eye of the storm to blast right up the bay.  Hurricane Dawn was coming to town, and wiser men had fled to higher inland refuge.
     The sky overhead was split into two dramatic hues, one light cerulean summer, the other deep violet and foreboding.  Bobby wondered if maybe he should have gone upstream as well.  Hell, even the seagulls were gone.  The blinking lights at twin points of the bridge superstructure seemed overly bright.  The air felt heavy and wet.  While the true deluge was still south of Long Island Sound, there had been some portentous sprinkles.  The Weather Channel maps tracked the eye up the east coast and it was looking as thought good ol’ Blake was right, the joined mass of water known as Narragansett Bay and its sister Mount Hope would be hosting the first really powerful hurricane in over fifty years, and every one else had left, except for the two people standing on the unpainted deck at the very head of Mount Hope Bay.  The slider opened with a soft whoosh, and closed thudding against the frame.  Marian stepped beside her husband.
She looked into his worried gaze and he pulled her into a gentle, loving kiss.
"Think it’ll really come?”  Her voice was sweet, soft and only her husband could detect the sound of her concern.
"Startin’ to think so.”  Bobby answered with all sincerity.  “Old Poppy used to call these storms Satan’s Circus.  He’d say when Satan’s Circus comes to town, only the foolish pay for admission.”
"Poppy ever have a son die?”
"No.”
"Then he would never understand.”  She laced her fingers into his and squeezed.
         Bobby and Marian stood shoulder to shoulder as the purple clouds over ran the azure sky.  The power of the early afternoon sun became insignificant as the sky began to boil.  One last seagull, looking stark white, like a candle at midnight, flew toward the beaches up river as the first wave of large smacking raindrops began to fall.   Bobby just stood with his face into the breeze, allowing the raindrops to mix with the tears on his face.  Two days was just not enough time.
      "How high will the water rise?” she asked.
      "They say there’s a fifteen foot tidal surge.  We’re at seventeen feet here.  If it hits with the highest tide, this deck could be just above the waves.”  He thought it might even be just a bit under the waves.
        Over their heads the early flashes of lightning began to dance across the deepening colors of the stormy sky.  The roll of deep thunder began to echo along the shoreline.  Bobby felt that rumble vibrate his fractured heart.  He thought of the soft dirt above Robert’s grave, and wondered if the splintered remnants of his heart would completely shatter in the rumbling thunder.
         "Marian, I’m staying here until I can’t.  I’m facing this storm down.”  He looked into the eyes of his wife.  He could not see the tears on her face any better than she saw his.  Both were soaked in the infant rains of Hurricane Dawn.  He kissed her again, longer and deeper than last time.  “I can’t keep running.  I need to feel like I can do something.  I hate this helpless felling.”
          "There was a time I would have fought you, but I have only enough fight left to stand by you.  I know it was not your fault.”
           "Easy to say.  He was just a kid, my kid, and he needed me.”  The sound of the downpour should have drowned his words, but Marian’s heart heard every breath.
        They both had their hands on the rail of the deck and were leaning into the wind as it began gusting to near twenty-five knots.  The rain was warm and like his own shed tears, had a salty flavor to it.  The sky, nearly dark, still grew deeper.  The high grass and cattails along the shoreline began to bow down to the north.  Waves crashed into the old remnants of the pier Ol’ Pappy had built.  The sea spray drove nearly horizontally.
       The rain simply stopped.
       "Is there a switch somewhere?” Marian joked.
       "Ahh, just the first band.  The rain will come and go a few times, getting stronger with the winds.  The breaks will become shorter and before long everything around here will be zipping by.”
       "Are we doing the right thing?”
        "Who ever knows.  Last week we thought diving in the bay for quahogs was harmless enough.  All I know is that it’s right for me.  I need to do this.  I need to look right into Satan’s Circus and God help me for what I might see.”
From the street a police siren warbled intermittently.  Between the high-pitched electronic scream, an officer’s voice could be discerned,  “For your safety a mandatory evacuation has been ordered.  A shelter has been set up…”
        "That’s the fifth time they’ve been by.”
        "And they’ll continue to come by until the trees start falling or the street floods.”
     "What time did they come by here?”
     "Two-thirty.”
     "Was that the same guy?”
     "Yeah, that’s the fat bastard that kept glaring at me while my boy was wrapped up in a white sheet, and taken away.  The questions later nearly put me over the edge.”
Marian began to cry again.  Her tears were plain and unmasked.
     "Honey, it will be alright.”
     "I know, I trust you and love you.  I could never have gotten through this without you.”
     Bobby nearly choked on the irony.  Had he not turned his back on Robert, the boy would not have drowned, and she would not have had to go through any of this shit at all.  Payment was being made and soon the pain would stop.  Satan’s Circus was at hand, and he had bought tickets for the center ring.
     "There is hope, right? After, I mean.”
     "Marian, there is always hope.  I would not be standing here if I didn’t have hope.”
      Another spiraling band of rain led a stronger windstorm.  Gusts were now nearly fifty knots.  Smaller dry branches had begun to fly.  Loose lawn decorations tumbled along the beach.  The snapping of branches rivaled the rolling thunder and flashing lightning.  It would not be long before the power and phone was lost.  Bobby had charged up both cell phones, but doubted he would really use either one.
      He put his arm across Marian’s shoulder and leaned into the wind.  The push of the wind told him for sure, the power of this storm was heading up the twin bays.  He would not guess where the eye would fall, but doubted it was necessary to have a direct hit, although it did seem likely.  It might hurt a bit, in the beginning, but facing this storm was right for them both.  After, hopefully, the pain and the guilt would be gone and they could be happier, never happy.  Not without Robert, that had changed everything.
      Bobby looked into the house.  All of the lights were unplugged.  The television and appliances were pulled away from the walls and valuables had been boxed and stored in the center of the house and in the trunk of the car.  He knew he should have boarded up the sliders, but he knew in the end, it did not really matter.  The circus would play out in whatever randomness drove such things.  Bring it all on.  Gusts answered his silent call, nearly pushing him off his feet.  He held one hand more tightly to the rail.  The Eye of Dawn was now over Block Island with one hundred and fifteen knot winds.  The tropical rains were dumping four and three-quarter inches in just over an hour.  The tidal surge was riding the high tide at twenty feet above normal.  The Twin Bays were beginning to swell with a churning rolling current of five to nine foot rolling seas.  The sound of the increasing wind sounded like a dying man’s groan.
      Standing in the path of the eye of Hurricane Dawn, Bobby and Marian held fast to each other, the memory of their deceased fifteen year-old son and hoped for redemption.
      Two days were just not enough time to heal.

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