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Remembering Hurricane Betsy

From the book: “Bienvenido a Miami” by Matt Bamberg

“The eye of the hurricane is expected to blow northeast of Miami,” the voice from the silver Motorola transistor radio reported. It’s expected to miss Miami by several hundred miles and all we expect is a lot of rain.”  In my deepest voice, I mimicked what the weather forecaster had said. It felt good.

And rained it did, but even more strange, I walked outside and noticed that our courtyard was ringed by a large pool of water. I sloshed through our front gate and saw that there was no vacant lot across the street, only water. “Something weird is happening,” I thought.

The radio announcer came on the air about an hour later and had reported that the hurricane, Hurricane Betsy, was drifting south, an hour after that they reported that it was drifting southeast. Then still an hour later they hoisted the hurricane warning and told city residents that Miami wouldn’t be spared.

Small waves began to break against the house. I pondered whether I should wake up my Eleanor and Harry.

Water seeped into the front door. I put a towel there to block it. A few minutes later the towel began to float down the hallway in a supernova like puddle of water. “Mom! Dad! Wake up,” I warned. “The hurricane’s coming! I swear!”  I shook my dad, never daring to shake Eleanor, as one might have been dead if you did.

“Go back to bed,” Eleanor’s groggy voice said as she felt the bed’s reverberations. Eleanor was a very light sleeper.

“No, it’s true, it’s coming. Hurricane Betsy. It has switched course.”

“Eleanor get up,” Harry said looking out the bedroom window. “Marvin’s right the bay is rising, it’s in the backyard.”

The waves were pounding against the house. Our family assembled in the kitchen. “Let’s get out of here,” I urged.

“Shut up!” my two brothers, Logan and Jerry yelled.

The radio announcer said that our area must evacuate immediately. “Gee, I was thinking that two hours ago,” I thought.

Before Eleanor and Harry noticed, I opened the sliding glass door to say hi to Dominique who I saw was being dragged by her aunt.

“Dominique, this is paradise,” I joked, screaming at the top of my lungs. Oh how I loved hurricanes. Dominique waved as if she were in an amusement park as her mother yanked her, face sullen and scornful.

Water pushed between my legs as I felt Logan push me to the floor so he could shut the door.

“Stupid ass,” he said.

Eleanor screamed at me as I dripped puddles of water on the linoleum floor. She poked her arm at the back of my shirt. I sensed her fingers grabbing it as a mother cat’s teeth grips a kitten. “Don’t let the water in! Slade! What on earth are you doing?”

Her hand swung to my head. Pain ran from my scalp to my neck as I felt a wad of hair being yanked. She had pulled it as she always did in situations where I asserted myself.

I pulled away and ran to my bedroom. I waited.

After a few minutes Jerry screamed for me. Jerry, my oldest brother, took control of me when Eleanor, Harry and Dominique weren’t around. Tall and slim, he sloshed into my bedroom, water now several inches deep on the floor, and grabbed me by my arm, snapping my elbow as I went up.

Outside, the rain, needles puncturing my back, was pleasant compared to my brother’s handing me off to my mother. My mother’s hand dragged through the now waist-deep wetland that got deeper the further we walked.

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