From South Carolina Flood Recovery 2016
The preacher in charge of the disaster recovery inspected yet another flood damaged trailer home, he squeezed his way around piles of stuff with a clip board refraining from stating the obvious, “How can you live in a place like this?!?” Finally he offered the home owner, “Well we could surely get you a new tub and shower.” “Ah no sir…My wife LIKES that bath tub.” It was a round horse water tank made out of a brown recycled plastic by Rubbermaid. He’d picked it up at the local farm supply. It was plenty big enough for the both of them. Like a big hot tub you might find in a honeymoon suite. After the flood ravaged their trailer, David had so many leaks, so many outbreaks of black mold creeping across panels, floors and sodden ceilings, and with no insurance money to deal with the “deferred maintenance,” he began his recovery by tearing out the tub and shower unit and rolling the horse tank through the gauntlet of piles and drilling holes and installing the faucet unit in its side.
When the preacher had pulled in the drive and offered a hand shake David averted eye contact. David’s face was disfigured with scars that gave his visage a pinched look. He walked us around the trailer with a can of Mountain Dew in his hand talking about how the storm just kept pelting the trailer with rain, emphasizing how much rain they got and how as a farmer he had a total loss of his cotton crop because the fields were still too wet four months after the flood to ever get in the fields. “They covered me for the seed and chemicals, but nothing else. My wife and I were trying to save up some money so we could have a baby, but now were so far in debt….” “She’s working at a day care” As we made another pass around the trailer it became obvious that he was trying to avoid having to show us the inside of the trailer. Then he said, “I can show you inside , but it aint who we really are.”
On the wall was a yellowed local newspaper clipping in a frame, titled “Local Farmer Tries his Hand as Fantasy Writer.” As the preacher followed David to the end of the trailer, they stooped in the Master Bedroom. The preacher broke the awkward silence by saying, “I see you’ve got a trach hole” The back story to come made up for the previous verbal reluctance and shifting from foot to foot, “ Yes sir, when I was in high school I was driving to school and swerved to miss a deer. I went through the windshield and was 35 days in a coma.” “Funny thing I remember everything about seeing the deer, the car going out of control and me laying there in the field with my blood on the cotton, and seeing the tail of the deer bobbing up and down in the blue sky as it ran away. Now you’re not going to believe me when I say this, but it was the most peaceful time of my life. I mean it’s when I met God and felt his hand on me. There’s no other way to explain it. That peaceful feeling is something I’ve been trying ever since to get back.” David circled his hand around his face and the pointed, “I mean they did all these surgeries and gave me this eye, but I can’t go through a day without finding myself day dreaming about the peace I felt that morning.”
And the preacher was nodding the whole time, “I might know what you mean. I felt that peace too, when I was shot in Vietnam. It was like time stopped and I just knew that I was with God and that’s where I wanted to be the rest of my life, so I told him I’d give my life to Him right there. I wasn’t sure if that meant living or dying. And just as I thought that, some more bullets flew in front of me and as I laid there I thought I was surely dead now, but they were all stopped by my helmet that had flewn off before and had landed in the dirt just ahead of me. So I knew that the answer was that I was going to keep living so that’s why I’m a preacher today.”
Cotton balls rotting in the field, hopes for children postponed maybe forever if the birth control works, three FEMA rejections and you’re out, the wife worn down all the time from the daycare job and just depressed, the old tub/shower sitting outside filling with more rain and empty Dew cans, the bank threatening foreclosure… But they got their own well and can fill that tub up with hot water and at the end of the day, David and his wife can scrub and soak and giggle and sigh with that peace flirting out there just on the periphery like the mockingbird that comes to sing every morning.