Yolanda held on tight to her father’s hand. With her left she fastened a hard grip on her little brother as he drifted next to her in his life jacket. He giggled, his brown floatie encased arms splashing in the rising waters, swirling sluggish and brown like a disturbed serpent. An inarticulate cry escaped Yolanda’s lips as the cool water rose up to her midsection in the hot August sun.
“Come on now, Sweetheart,” her father said with a strained sideways glance. He balanced a little thirteen-inch color TV on his right shoulder, holding on to his daughter with his left hand, while plowing through the currents of floodwater in slow, giant strides.
Yolanda bit her lip and glanced at her brother who was kicking in the water. His eyes were bright, mouth open in wonderment, little squeals of delight escaping. Little fool thinks we at the city pool.
As they traveled, Yolanda’s father slowed his pace and even had to back out of a couple of streets because the brown water was too deep. Maybe not for him, but certainly for his daughter. As the morning burned into the hot afternoon, people herded together for a time talking over their splashing and the chop-chop of military helicopters that seemed to drift as lazily as dragonflies high up in the summer haze. The people warily glanced overhead while most choppers diverted towards the dome, and some headed for the causeway.
“It were the military!” someone shouted. “They blew up the levees.”
Yolanda looked up to her father. He was grinning. “That true, papa?”
He said quietly, almost in a whisper, “Darlin, it ain’t likely. But just let em talk.”
“Yo man,” someone said behind them. “That one special TV?”
“It got sentimental value.” He smiled over his shoulder. “Had for over twenty years. My mamma gave it to me for graduating high school. Back then, graduating seemed to mean something.”
“Yo man, I hear that, but you know they out there sniping looters. You hear?”
Yolanda looked fearfully back at the man, then up at her father.
“Yeah, I hear. But I’m a lucky man.” Yolanda’s father said, his voice getting louder. “I got the three things with me that matter. My two kids and my color set.” He winked down at his child and whispered, “Maybe he didn’t graduate?”
Yolanda smiled back, glancing back at the man who shook his head and went another way, making his own wake in the murky water.
Lying in a strange bed, Yolanda could hear the women talking in the next room.
“That poor child, all she ever do is sleep.”
“I saw her up an hour ago. I asked her something, but she didn’t talk. Just sat there with her little drawings.”
“Poor child, it’s a shame.”
“Yes, a shame.”
Yolanda winced in her darkened room. Because she knew that morning would replay in her head even though she didn’t want it too.
They had just rounded a corner downtown. Tall buildings stood in triumph over the water that vainly sought to overtake them. First, there was just the sloshing sound of muddled liquid accompanied by low encouragements of those making a way through. Then a loud punctuated booming, like thunder after lightning, echoed off the buildings’ canyon-like walls. Yolanda looked up at her father’s head just as it eclipsed the sun. She saw a fine pink mist surrounding him like a halo, his expression frozen in surprise. The firm grip he had on her hand softened and released as he toppled face first into the water.
“Daddy, daddy,” she screamed reaching into the water for him as the TV floated away and her brother threatened to also. He was now crying, finally aware something was wrong.