An Atmosphere of Trouble

Another day of heavy rain, another atmospheric river. Roads, and homes, and whole communities washed out; highways closed or closing. Gasoline and diesel being rationed. It’s been a dreadful year of Covid, drought, wildfires, and now floods in our province. Hubs and I, and most everyone I know, are fortunately, fine. So many are not, and my heart aches for them. I donated money to the flood relief efforts. To further help boost my mood, I share an excerpt from My Dear One whereupon the H&H deal with the aftermath of a flash flood…

Jake moaned as white-hot pain shot through his shoulder.

“Did I hurt you? Are you hurt? What’s wrong?” Terror shrilled her voice.

Everything hurt. But he couldn’t find the strength to say as much.

“Mr. Douglas? Wake up. You can’t stay here. We can’t stay here.”

More pain as she gripped his shoulder. She was afraid. And angry. And it was his fault. Somehow, he knew it was his fault.

“Mr. Douglas. Mr. Douglas.” She was frantic now.

Something struck his face.

Her hand. She’d hit him. And that drove him to suck in a breath and force open one eye enough to squint at the black shape in front of his nose.

“You hit your head,” she said. “You’re bleeding. I bandaged it, best I could, but…but we can’t stay here. You must get up.”

“Wha—” He swallowed, licked his lips. His throat was raw, like he’d swallowed a bucket of cactus tines. Clearing it, he rasped, “What…happened?”

“Don’t you remember? You were carrying that man. Then the water came, and, and you went under.”

Jake groaned as his memory returned. The water slamming him to the ground, while simultaneously heaving him up and forward; a tornado of sensation and sound. And blinding, suffocating water.

He started to draw his hands under him to lift his head, froze as pain spiked bile into his mouth. He retched.

“Oh, God. What’s wrong?”

“Shoulder,” he gasped out. “Think it’s broke.”

“Oh, no. What should I do?”

“Nothing,” he croaked. “Just…give me a minute.”

When the spinning sensation slowed, he eased open an eye. Slowly, the blurred blackness in front of him resolved into an identifiable object, Miss Marshall’s crepe covered knees. She was kneeling beside him, holding something on his head.

He eased his right arm upward, until he touched her hand, and the sodden material she pressed to his skull.

“I tore my skirt,” she said. “T-to dress your wound.”

“Smart.” He shivered as nausea and pain rioted through him. Water rushed uncomfortably close by. “We need shelter.”

“I-I know.” For the first time, he noticed the stilt of her voice, as though she was struggling to speak without stuttering.

She’s cold. I’m cold. Only his hands burned, as though he’d grabbed the wrong end of a branding iron. And his cheek pinched where it pressed against shale and sand.

Get up.

Without moving his arms, he flexed and squeezed his fingers, wiggled his toes. They were stiff, and achy, but they functioned. Cautiously, he rolled an ankle, and then the other, lifted one knee, then shifted his opposite leg side to side, and finally lifted his heels toward his buttocks. His shoulder protested the movement, but he was fine with that so far as his legs worked.

His right arm worked, because he had used it already. It was his left arm, pinned under him, that was the problem. Drawing up his knees, he angled his weight to his right side, and attempted to ease his left arm out from under his body. Pain seared through his chest and upper back, forcing him to stop.

“Okay,” he murmured when the pain subsided enough, he felt able to speak. “I’m pretty sure my collarbone’s broke. I have to sit up. But I’ll need your help to ensure I don’t fall in the water.”

“All right.” She scrambled to his far side. “Be careful. I can’t swim.”

He nodded. Sucking in the breath he knew he would need to propel him through what was going to be excruciating pain, he shoved off the ground with his good hand as he dragged his feet under him, and lurched away from her. Away from the water.

He landed on his backside, his left arm cradled in his right, and gnashed his teeth to contain a scream of agony.

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