Chapter XXIV: I’m A Reporter!
I’m not feeling well; whenever I try to balance my world starts spinning. As I finish eating the second double cheeseburger, which of course has no onions, I feel more balanced. I couldn’t belief my fortune as the people we rescued from Burger King had cheeseburgers the way I like. It’s hard to not eat the second right after the first but I want to appreciate the taste. Naturally I couldn’t help myself as I walk to the waiting news van, the second cheeseburger is gone within seconds.
What am I supposed to do once I get to the van? Maybe we should have made the journey on foot.
It didn’t really matter; we are less than a block away. My feet really hurt, I’m not sure what got into the cop but I am relieved Larry is gone. I get the impression the stress is too much for him, I am not mad he treated me like a nerd, but come on?
Did he have to make a jibe at my expense? Isn’t there enough bad shit happening already? I can’t believe I’m not going to wake up and go to work tomorrow. What is tomorrow going to bring?
I couldn’t blame the cop for drinking, but it would have been nicer to see him fill the image of a national hero. My mind goes to parallels in history in which cowards became heroes such as Robert Ford and J Bruce Ismay. I don’t know why Larry reminds me of those guys but he just does. When the people of the small town of Texas heard there founder was a poor character they changed their name. You know about the Titanic right? Everyone knows about the Titanic but not many know the characters names.
I couldn’t handle the way he looked at Mary and Becky.
My conscience briefly wonders what’s happening to the people we parted with. I wonder about Mark and my heart tightens as grief threatens to run freely. Not understanding why Larry’s comment bothers me so much I decide to choke down my next complaint. My wife doesn’t need to hear me whine, I still don’t agree with Larry’s version of how a man is to treat a woman.
That creep will never find a decent woman as long as he treats them the way he does.
I decide to put these thoughts into a box and put it away. Now is the time of action, not thought. I wish I had my tennis shoes, my feet don’t feel too great. To make matters worse the cheeseburgers, even though they tasted good, especially with the charbroiled taste, I have to shit. At least I think I have to shit. Maybe its stress building, but whatever, my digestive system feels queasy. I decide to man up and not complain.
Wiping my brow I wish the journey was over. I really want to feel air condition. Instead I have one foot going in front of another, in the heat, in the city. Even though I frequented Costa Rica in the summers, I find myself panting and squinting towards the sun. It’s very bright. Sweat pours freely, the heat doesn’t give me a moment of respite, and stitches are in my side when I slow down. Breathing comes in hard, I’m thinking of telling everyone to wait.
But if I stop I become a sissy. No one likes a sissy. We are almost there.
I really don’t know if we are almost there. I’m tired. I’m thirsty. My blood pressure is not under control and I wish I had one of my pain medicines. I am not having fun. The desire in me to share my discomfort is too great. I break the silence. Not really talking to anyone I mutter, “I think Larry is a jerk. I always thought the person who would save me would be a something like a knight in shining white armor.”
April and Susan concur. April adds, “He is most certainly is a creep. Most females don’t get their knight in shining armor, most woman accept who ever simply notices them. Did you see how he kept looking at Becky?”
Susan dryly responds, “Well, at least we know our police force is busy at work protecting the innocent, even if they are drunk. Look at the bright side; no one could have rescued us.”
I can’t argue with that. There are always two sides to an issue. I can be proactive or reactive.
Earlier in my life I was spiritual, not religious but spiritual. Growing up in the deep woods of the Upper Peninsula I was collective in my attitude. All religions and faiths lead a person to the truth; some get you there quicker then others. At the end of the day, it’s all about a person’s intent. I evaluate a situation as right or wrong, black or white. There are no neutral areas, I am not Switzerland. Did a person do their best to help others and the community or did a person hurt themselves or others? What is the best course for the greater good.
If only the world could have more of me’s!
Sometimes my ego gets the best of me. I believe in being both light and dark. I find myself always being the good guy, but I wish I was big and bad! I guess that’s why I am hurt by Larry’s judgment.
I find my voice, “That officer was rude and should not have been drunk. People need his focus and to be on the ball. I am reminded of Robert Ford and Jesse James. I feel bad for whoever is Larry’s friend. Why can’t people like that get a clue? It’s a new century. People who are nerds, geeks and weirdos are the ones who rule the world. We are the ones who become the President of both our country and computer companies! Cool people like that deserve to go back to the 1950’s and 1960’s! People like are the ones who make females not have rights!”
My last comment hits a chord with April and Susan, they both chirp about female liberal movements and how woman are just as capable as men. In their opinion females are more capable. I don’t mind getting my sex trashed; I won their vote against Larry and his crude behavior. I beam for the first time since the earthquake started.
Take that Larry the dumb super cop! I hope you sober up and do your job.
Susan rushes forward as she startles me out of my reverie. “It’s over here! Come on Berry, we have wheels!” I am amazed at his obedience as he trots to her side. It’s like he is her pet dog.
April catches my hand and squeezes it. She asks me if I am doing well. I simply nod in approval; deep down I don’t feel strong. She hasn’t complained once. I briefly wonder if there is something I can do for her. I wish I had some chocolate or a rose. My heart aches as I long for a different day. I wish I was in Costa Rica with my wife. Each summer we go to a coastal town called Tamarindo. Tamarindo is a beach town on the Pacific. We found ourselves becoming regulars at a retreat/hotel called Gardenia. It’s been my wish to make enough money to buy the property down there and make the town into our home. I say, “Te amo.” It means I love you.
I bring her in close. April smells of flowers, her soap lingers in her hair. I whisper a second time, “Te amo.” Her eyes tear up as she responds, “Te amo.” For a moment all fades, the destruction around us no longer matters. In front of me is my hope, my desire. My wife is my love, without her I am nothing. Susan yells for us to come over. The van works! The moment is over. My wife tells me it’s wickedly hot, hotter than usual. I don’t know what to say.
I can’t fathom what’s in front of me! What’s parked is not a van I see in movies but it’s the CNN Express Bus. It’s a large bus painted blue with America and her States clearly stenciled in with red and white. Stars cover the West Coast. The camera man swings the side door open, it effortlessly slides on its track. On top of the van is very large white radar reminding me of a journalist vans from the movies. I wonder if it’s connected to a satellite and if it works. On the rear of the bus is CNN in bold red, a white back drop covers the exit. My wife squeaks in excitement and I’m happy to soon get off of my feet. I very much hope air condition and a bathroom await us. Like a dumb ass I trip on my way to the van, looking down I see stuff animals. I see a small recreation/newspaper stand turned upside down. Magazines, sun glasses and trinkets scatter the road. The owner is long gone. Reaching down I see a small bear with a sign saying I love Washington DC! I take it for my wife. I brush it off and try to give it to her, she doesn’t see the kind gesture and sprints for the idling bus. She shouts, “Hot water, look honey it’s the CNN EXPRESS!”
I stop dead in my tracks as I hear someone from my right yell, “Help me! I can’t move. I broke my leg!” A person yells from the direction I picked up the stuff animal. I walk back and drop the animal into the mess.
I perceive my wife will be safe on the CNN Express bus with Susan and her cameraman. The street is not experiencing any major conflict. We are on the outskirts of Howard Playground. A woman in a business suits leads three others who are dressed like her. I hear them ask Susan if they can get on the bus, she says yes. Before everyone enters the bus they have to empty out many boxes full of questionnaires. From people’s reactions it appears the bus is full of boxes.
And here I was thinking it was going to be a small news mini-van. I wonder who needs help.
I try to pinpoint the dude who is in distress, “Where are you?” I yell out a few times. I hear a rustle and a muffled yell come from deep in the upside down newsstand. I quicken my search and ask, “Are you in the newspaper stand? Can you move and let me know where you are?” I see many newspapers and magazines. A Fashion magazine showing the recent super model for Victoria Secret shifts near the center. I conclude the canvas of the newsstand with its low grade two by four timbers used for construction must have pinned the man inside. Looking up I see a lamp post crushing much of stand which tells me why this happened. I hope the man isn’t hurt too bad and I’m glad the loose cables are not active with power.
I tell the man I can’t see, “I see where you are, please be patient. How long have you been in there?” Looking around I try to find something to maybe lift the canvas.
Perhaps I can drag the man out if he isn’t hurt to bad?
I sometimes miss the simple things; I could have asked the camera man or my wife for help. But no, I have to do it the hard way. If I was in the libraries archive or at some foreign air port I would have navigated the situation clearly. Instead like a dumb ass I pick up one of the wooden poles used to keep the side of the newsstand erect and poke around. The first thing I feel is a minor sharp pain as a splinter jabs my fingers.
“Ouch!” I toss the poll away. A few drops of blood emerge but it’s nothing serious.
I look to see if I can grab the canvas, it doesn’t budge. The man yells out, “Are you still there? I can’t see or feel my legs. Please someone help me!” I reassure him I’m still here and he quiets down.
“Sorry, I am scared. My name is Vincent.” He sounds like he is hyperventilating.
I wonder if I sound reassuring, “Things will be alright, be patient. Can you see anything?”
Vincent fatalistically answers, “No. The canvas is holding me down. I pooped myself. What’s happening out there?” I tell him as much as I know which isn’t much at all. I decide to not tell him a tsunami might be coming. There isn’t much heavy rubble; the best thing to do is pick things up one by one.
My plan formulates, “Hey Vincent, I’m going to remove objects one by one, it might take me a few minutes.”
“Cool.” Vincent sounds grateful. He really sounds like he is from California. I step in the middle of the mess and start throwing things off. My back hurts but I refuse to listen to the pains message.
Sometime pain is relative to the situation. Pain pain, go away, come back another day. Wait what am I saying? How about Pain pain, go away, don’t come back another day?
I reach the canvas. Three wooden posts bend unevenly towards the middle. Individually they are not tough obstacles, just annoying. I am left with a few more splinters which make me sour. Looking back at the bus I see my wife. She is making good time on removing the boxes. She and the others do not notice what I am doing.
“Where are you from, you sound like a beach kid?” I never really liked small talk but I don’t know what else to say.
A surfer’s voice answers, “San Diego.”
“Why are you in DC Vincent?” I make sure my footing is balanced.
It takes me a moment to catch his response, “I’m a peace activist doing some volunteer work with Amnesty USA. I was getting a newspaper when the earthquake hit. Everything went dark very quick. What time is it?”
I pause and look at my cell phone. A new message declares the same old message of evacuation, “…its quarter after three. I forgot to ask, what’s your full name?” I don’t know what else to ask. I’m getting very tired.
“Vincent Robinson. I can’t believe it’s only been three hours, I would thought it’s been a day or something. Gee bro, I haven’t had a smoke for a time. I’m doing well, my buddies would be impressed! I could have smoked the canvas has me tight. At first I didn’t think I was going to breath but then it just came naturally, do you know what I mean bro?”
Vincent talks a lot. I wonder what he looks like?
My mind pieces together a sandy blond young man who has crystal blue eyes. If he is from San Diego he must be a tall surfer. That means he is going to be around six feet and have taunt muscles. I don’t know why I care. Part of me wants to save as many as I can; a deeper part always wants to be a surfer dude. My spine issues prevent that passion from manifesting. Instead in surfer communities, such as in Tamarindo in Costa Rica and Christchurch New Zealand, I watch surfers as I walk or snorkel the beach.
If I could have one wish, it would be to have no medical handicaps.
I’m frustrated. I stop during the second post. I’m tired and need a break. My muscles and back do not feel good. I Squinting, I look to the sun. I know I’m not supposed to look directly at it but something catches my attention. It appears the sun is blurry. I see something looking like one sun splitting into two. I forgot what I am doing. Looking closer I see it’s not one sun, but two. Sweat pours freely into my eyes which cut off my vision.
What is happening? Why is there two suns’ in the sky?
I remember my dream of CNN. Déjà vu crashes into my awareness. I remember Susan in my dream. I knew what was coming today.
It wasn’t a nightmare? What’s going on? I’m such a nerd, isn’t there better things to think about at the moment?
I pick and discard random ideas as I catch my breath. I think of veils and perceptions. In my imagination I see myself at Northern Michigan University. Its 1999, it’s hot from summer and our campus is conserving energy by turning off the air conditions. A hip new associate professor has much to show. Countless hours are spent listening to how cognitive and empirical experiences are dually important in shaping a human being. Dogmatic questions regarding the essence of God and creation are made into math equations which are somehow part of the bigger picture, or maybe it’s all part of some cause and affect scenario. For every action there is a reaction, which in turn becomes the action.
There is a lot of dust covering Washington DC from the earthquake. Could this be an atmospheric disturbance?
Vincent yells out to me, “DUDE, are you still there? I can’t wait to I get to smoke a fatty!”
“Be patient Vincent, it’s hot up here.” I don’t ever remember my wife referring to her cigarettes as a fatty. I look back at the two suns.
I’m breathing better. My headache is under control. Using meditative techniques taught to control my blood pressure helps immensely. In and out I breathe. Out through the mouth and in through the nose. Descarte taught the cognitive mind is not directly aware of the environment but it registers separate proxies. Whenever I experience déjà-vu I’m breaking through different levels of both my conscience and my sub conscience. I can get a better grip on the environment and come up with solid ideas if I take the time to look around calmly. The last wooden pole is too heavy. It appears to be the support beam. I get a sinking feeling it’s the culprit to why Vincent it stuck. I’m still registering the implications of two suns’ and the secret meanings behind déjà-vu as I ponder how to free Vincent.
But to counter Descartes is my beloved Plato. I can’t help but believe in architects and God. That feels right while the other feels logical but empty.
I can use one of the smaller wooden polls as leverage to raise the main beam. The weight should shift to the center which I can use to pivot the beam underneath.
My mind breathed life into this existence before I woke. My dreams were part of the universal conscience. My Déjà-vu was a chain of images; these images are taken from the bigger picture. I do believe divinity plays a role but I don’t know how.
Vincent grunts but not from pain. He too feels the weight shift. It’s a good sign he can feel his limbs.
“I’m making a lot of progress getting the rubble off of you, be patient.” I tell him what I’m doing. I think as I work. Real knowledge supersedes but is not superior to the phenomenal world. I try to find a balance between the two worlds. My actions become timed, my mind is balanced. The beam moves more freely. My senses are in harmony with the environment. My heart beats slowly even though I lift the log but it settles back in place a moment later.
What’s with the two suns?
I become chill as I remember Nostradamus. Somewhere deep in the archives in the Library of Congress I read his words when I was bored and had some down time, ‘the cloud will make two suns appear…’ it was in relation to the end of times.
Shit, wasn’t there something in NASA about a star burning up and making there appear to be two suns? Wasn’t that in my dream from earlier?
Now I really want to ask Susan about the two suns. Deep down I’m wondering if the two suns are the reasons the earthquakes occurred. I wonder if Nostradamus was right. I’m almost done saving Vincent. Leaning all my weight into the poll I manage to move it clear.
I hear a grunt of satisfaction come from beneath the canvas, “Man, you did it!” Vincent is now helping in his own rescue; I still can’t see what he looks like.
Didn’t the Mayans have an end of world prophecy talking about two suns or something? But when I talked to a few Mayans in Central America they said their people believed a shift was coming, not total destruction. A rebirth and a end of a cycle or era.
I decide it’s not the best time to be thinking of these things. It didn’t seem like a super nova, or nebula. I didn’t see a rapture occurring or a New Jerusalem coming. It’s just hot and there is a very warm wind.
Vincent asks, “Hey man, what’s the name of the righteous dude who is saving me?” The canvas sticks on a nail or something, I try pulling at it but it only makes it more stubborn and resistant.
“It’s Mike. Hey, can you lift with your legs. I can see you move but this canvas ceiling is big and I can use some help.” I wipe sweat from my brow by rubbing my head on my shirt of my right shoulder.
“Oh man, I can’t dude. My leg doesn’t work. But I can try with my left.” I see a small lump appear near the center. I’m beginning to wonder if the beam broke something vital in him. After lifting the edge of the canvas a few inches, I maneuver the nail under the rip. Vincent is free of the canvas.
A middle aged over weight man looks back at me. He places his hand over his eyes as the sun streaks into his hole. He is Caucasian and doesn’t have a tan. His hair is messy. Vincent wears tan khaki shorts and a solid black t-shirt.
Shit, he’s a stoner from San Diego California?
Vincent whips out a joint and fires it up. Tears run freely, I notice he has crutches.
“Mike, thank you so much, I thought I was going to die.” Puff puff puff…, “Do you want to hit this man, it’s some fine bud. I told myself I was going to smoke a joint if I survived this one…” Puff puff puff…, “My bros back home aren’t going to believe this, I was walking to Starbucks and wanted something to read...” Puff puff puff…, “Then the earth shook man and all went dark.” Puff puff cough…, “Holy shit this is some good bud. It’s a cross between Northern Lights and Train Wreck.” Cough cough puff cough. “Damn, you sure you don’t want some killer bud? I need to save the rest for later, oh wait, one last hit.”
Vincent looks happy in his little high bubble.
Wow, he is not what I was expecting. But it works. He feels like a good person.
April and two of the newbie’s come over. My wife calls out if I am alright. Looking over at Vincent I can’t believe the tenacity of some people to smoke pot so freely. I remind myself most States in America are pro medical cannabis. I smile as I watch my fellow American enjoy a moment while hell is happening all around. Deep down I wish I could take a break but I don’t believe in that type of thing. To make matters worse my back feels ten times worse. Muscles cramp, my low back feels like a sore tooth before going to the dentist.
As soon as she hears what happened she forgets about moving the boxes and I tell Vincent, “It’s nice to meet you. No, I don’t believe in drugs. I need to go; will you be fine on your own?” I patiently wait for my wife to reach me as I tell her loudly what just occurred. I’m a little proud of myself.
Vincent flinches as he looks around, “My God, what happened after the lights went out? I was expecting the fire department or the police to come to my rescue. How much got destroyed and why did the siren change its tone? I’m not from here, I’m volunteering with Amnesty USA. Can I please come with you?”
I’m not sure what to think, my wife is at my side and I introduce her to Vincent. Vincent tells her I am a hero. Susan comes over with Berry. The CNN Express idles in the back ground, I want to warn them to not leave the vehicle unlocked but the gesture feels pointless after the day we have had. I don’t know why I’m worry about car thieves at a time like this.
Vincent pleads, “Hey Mike and April, can I please come with? I am scared.” My wife instantly thaws to him, she doesn’t smell the pot, and I doubt she cares if she did. I help Vincent up and ask about his crutches.
He tells us he has a rare spine deformity, something similar to multiple sclerosis of the spine but a little different. Apparently he was born with the condition and has to have crutches his whole life.
Sarcastically Vincent adds, “I’m lucky because others are constrained to wheelchairs.” I feel bad for him. No matter how hard I think I have it I see people like this. I decide as long as he travels with us I will not give him grief over smoking pot.
There are a lot worse things in life to be addicted to. A couple social work courses taught alcohol is much worse. The moment booze touches the lips it breaks down the human body. On the other hand the medical cannabis elevates the mood and dulls physical pain. I can’t blame him one moment. Have you ever seen a violent pot head?
We make it back to the bus. I go for the bathroom. The lock for the small washer closet is open; others have left it a mess. I turn on the water and make sounds of satisfaction. It works and its cold! My hands quickly become numb. I flip the toilet cover and squeeze off a load.
A few minutes later…
I am refreshed. I feel like Mario Brother who just hit a mushroom head. I smile to April as I get back to the group. She is talking to Susan and one of the business men. The new groups are bankers from Wells Fargo. They consist of two men and an older woman. They are dressed in blue suits with gold trim. Susan is busy trying to get the satellite feed to work but it kicks back static. As soon as the new group gets on one of the older females talk about Jesus non stop.
I grow quiet as the new business woman tells the cameraman the end of the world is happening and she’s read all about in 6:12 in Revelations. She didn’t take Jesus or religion serious but after today she was going to get baptized. She’s adamant she’s going to baptize all of her family, if they like it or not, “It’s all spoken for in the book of revelations! When I was at church my pastor told us last Sunday, ‘And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood. God have mercy on our souls…”
A few minutes of listening to this and Vincent cuts her off, “Lady your killing my buzz! Live and let live! We all know the end is here, but why talk about it nonstop? I believe in God but please don’t go overboard.” She sputters and goes quiet. Her companions ignore her ranting for they seem to be accustomed to her antics. They introduce themselves as bankers.
I’m glad I saved Vincent. His brashness quiets the woman down. She isn’t annoyed but we are all scared. The last thing people need at the moment is to fear God. When it’s about survival its innate God is part of each and every one of us. It doesn’t matter your size or skin color. All that matters is one’s intentions and actions. God is here to protect and direct.
The CNN bus smoothly backs up, no vehicles block the way. The bus squashes the boxes. A couple of people pass without commenting on foot. They appear to be dazed and confused. They remind me of people in Berlin after the Allies bombed the capital when I watched the History Channel and its war documentaries. Many are following the Metro tracks out of Washington DC.
One of the quiet bankers asks, “Can we get dropped off in Virginia? Anywhere in Virginia would be fine…?”
Susan is losing her cool but politely replies, “Sorry but we are heading to Maryland. My son and daughter are at school and I need to get to them.”
The bankers argue with each other and come to the conclusion they made a mistake getting on the bus. They thank us for the bathroom privileges and have Susan stop the bus as they politely remove themselves. I wave as they trot off, none wave back. A pleasant looking homely woman rushes to the bus with a stroller and a baby before we leave, she gets exits a family station wagon that is stalled in the traffic. Tears run down her face, she urgently taps on the door. We let her and the baby on. They immediately disappear in the bathroom.
Vincent takes out a second joint and fires it up. Susan stops the bus and screams like a witch being burned at the stake, “What are you doing?” She sounds mad. Vincent asks if she has a problem against medical cannabis and talks about his medical condition. She tells Vincent with much venom, “Get of my bus buddy!”
Before he gets up the camera man says something, its profound for he usually doesn’t say anything, “Susan, I like him. I smoke medical pot too. Do you want me to get off the bus?”
Susan is speechless. I decide to add my opinion, “I have disability and need pain killers. Have mercy on him, he has crutches.”
She stops the bus and declares, “Fine, but smoke outside. Never smoke that crap around me. I won’t let my children do it and I don’t agree with it. Good thing you’re in America where its legal!” Vincent and the camera man say fine. They both get out and finish his joint while the woman and baby strap themselves in a seat near April and I. My wife laughs at the tediousness of the situation, I laugh with her. Within moments Susan also laughs and the stress is released from the bus.
Susan tries sounding young, “I’m too old for this shit.”
Berry and Vincent get back on the bus. Vincent giggles. They look passive and happy, my back hurts. Working at the Library of Congress didn’t give me much cool points and I never touched that stuff. I am the king of the geeks. I sigh in dramatic despair. They think I disapprove. At least I have true love. The bus pitch forwards. We are in need of crossing our first obstacle.
Vincent blurts, “I’m a reporter!” Everyone laughs. We need humor. Vincent says he needs Scooby snacks and life would be perfect. We all laugh again. The baby cries, the woman sits near us and April starts a conversation with her. I don’t listen. I watch the road slowly pass bye. We are making very slow progress. The bus slowly inches forward but there is always a new reason to stop, always a new dilemma.
The slowness frustrates Susan who proceeds to put the pedal to the medal. She realizes the futility of her gestures in keeping the bus out of harm’s way. It’s more important to get us to safety then worry about scratches and dings. In front of us is the juncture leading to U.S. 29, she tells us we need to get on it, but it’s more to her. Many cars are piled up on top of each other ahead.
Berry gets an idea, “Go fast and we could nudge the last car and squeeze through.” No one wants to leave the air condition, we agree to his plan. Susan rubs the engine and launches us forward. Impact isn’t bad, I barely move a few inches. Metal on metal crunch and we are soon free of the obstacle. The left side of the bus is left with a few deep scratches. I see a dead priest near a church minivan. I am tired of seeing destruction but it is what it is.
Various cars and trucks speed from the reverse lane, the drivers and passengers blink their headlights while honking. There is no traffic going into DC. Deep down I know they are trying to warn us of an unforeseen danger but I chose to ignore their gestures for I hope they are being dramatic. I couldn’t see anything. April is pressing buttons on her phone but nothing works. She does however manage to take pictures. I ask her long she has been taking pictures and she tells me since the beginning. I respond with my flippant “…that’s cool.” A station wagon passes in the reverse lane; the family is directing us to turn around. Susan says the bus is built like a tank and can take a beating.
There are many vehicles coming from V St NW. The street sign for N Capital Street NW appears. Low and behold my expectations are crushed. Thousands of vehicles are stuck in deadlock when we get a clear view. It looks like rush hour going home after a long Monday.
I can’t believe this! What was I thinking? I could have walked with the others and made it to the hospital. Sometimes I’m really stupid.
Susan curses and pounds the wheel. We manage to go a few feet before we are brought to a stop. Many people are still in their vehicles but no one is making any scenes. Many honk their horns. A hundred people have left their vehicles and move on foot. The other lanes do not tell the same story. Going into Washington DC is clear of most traffic. Drivers still wave for us to turn around but none of them stop to tell why. Thousands of vehicles patiently wait their turn to inch forward.
Vincent curses, “People who leave their vehicles are going to make it impossible for those who stay in theirs to pass with their cars. A bus this size will not be able to squeeze through.”
Berry comes from far left field, “I need to get high again.”
Susan jumps his ship with no patience, “Berry, if I hear you talk about getting high again I’m going to report you regardless if you have a medical condition. Please stop talking about it, it makes me uncomfortable.” He sheepishly apologizes and changes the topic.
After a minute of nothing happening Berry ads, “We should turn around and find another way.” He tells Susan if we take W Street NW we could merge with First St NW which would take us to the hospital. Susan tells him she would rather stay on the highway, adding even if it takes a few extra minutes it’s worth it.
April dreamily questions to no one in particular, “If the tsunami comes or if another earthquake hits are we safe being in the bus?” The new woman is too busy hushing her baby to add to reply. I am tired and appreciate being off of my feet and don’t know what to say. Susan mutters something I don’t catch and Vincent shuts his eyes.
The bus snails forward a couple hundred feet. April talks with much optimism to the new girl and Vincent, she tells them the destruction is more than likely isolated to the city. She tells them about our son from Michigan. I see something up ahead appearing to be a smoke, the sky is dark. Vincent curses while interrupting my wife.
“Shit, dude, I think something happened up yonder. Is that smoke?” Vincent sounds boyish, his voice sounds as if he is making a statement and asking a question at the same time. Susan doesn’t care; she is focused on trying to move the bus further ahead.
Berry alarming says something isn’t right, “Hey look, it’s like Jurassic Park! My water is moving and it’s not from the bus.” I leave my seat to see what he’s talking about. He tosses me a second water bottle. I luckily catch it. I can’t still my hands; my wife puts the bottle on a passenger seat in front of us. The water shimmers but I don’t know what it means. Susan hasn’t moved the bus forward for a minute and stops the engine. We open the windows and allow the heat to enter, Vincent suggests we use our senses and listen. In the distance smoke has covered the highway; I can’t see up ahead, the darkness speeds towards our position. The air in the bus is stifling as the heat wins ground over the air condition. A few of the windows begin to fog up. I look ahead. We all see the water shimmer.
Berry says, “An oil refinery or gas dispensary might have caught flame?” His guess is as good as mine.
Vincent counters, “Maybe it was a gas station or something. I hear they can hold a lot of gas.” My mind takes a morbid turn. I wonder if a plane going to an airport fell from the sky but I didn’t want to sound like a dumb ass in case I’m wrong. The cloud of smoke completely covers the highway. It feels ominous. I really don’t want to lose a visual of the city in the afternoon.
My wife apologizes about going religious, “Sorry for sounding all superstitious, but wasn’t there something in the bible about the sky going dark at the end of times?”
Vincent answers, “It’s not like that. It’s from the Book of Mathew, ‘But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky’…” He adds, “It’s from 24:29. I went to biblical school at Moody Biblical Institute in Chicago when I was younger. Funny story, I found myself wanting to become a spiritual leader before I joined Amnesty USA. When I was a kid my parents did a lot of missionary work in Asia…” On and on Vincent talks, I quickly drone him out. I hear sirens and people. I shut the windows. Susan starts the bus and I breathe in comfort as the air condition instantly gets rid of humidity.
We drive another few feet. Now the cloud completely covers everything. It doesn’t look clean. Susan makes sure the windows are up. The baby continues to cry, her mother tries humming but it doesn’t do anything. Susan tries the radio again but it continues to give back static. She flips on the head lights. We are able to drive another few feet before we stop.
It’s like this for another twenty minutes. A warm wind picks up and dissipates the cloud which reminds me of very bad smog. Berry shrieks at us to look ahead when the darkness recedes to sunlight. I hear a deep rumble. I look back at the water bottle and see the water shimmer with more force. The rumble is louder; in the distance a dark blue gray tide can be seen rushing from our left to our right. It’s comes from McMillan Reservoir. I see a wall of water sweeping vehicles a mile ahead of us on the highway off the road. A dark gray blue churning mass of destruction takes everything in its path. Even with the windows up I hear the rumble build into a roar. Within moments the water engulfs the vehicles a half a mile ahead.
April screams, “No, this isn’t possible! Isn’t the ocean to the right, not the left?” She unbuckles her seat belt and runs to the bathroom. I hear her puke. I’m not sure if I should follow or sit. I can’t help but watch the mini tidal wave.
Vincent whips out a joint and lights it. Susan doesn’t say anything. She pounds the steering wheel and starts to cry. The woman with the baby leans forward; she whispers things I can’t hear. Berry quickly unbuckles his seat belt and joins Vincent. I watch. Vincent tells Berry he never was into Jesus but he does believe in God. Berry says he understands and to each our own. Vincent makes sure his seat belt is in place.
The water is dark and doesn’t look blue. It looks brown and gray. At first I thought it looked gray but the closer it gets the more clearly I see. Many people run out of their vehicles. A couple gesture for us to run as they point to high story buildings. They make sense. I look past them. The water looks like a wall. It blocks out my vision from where it’s already hit. It looks like it’s coming towards us on a diagonal. Susan apologizes as she unbuckles and bolts from the bus. There is nothing but a dark cloud of dust and crap over the wave, the sky goes dark again.
Cars and trucks are lifted as the ground buckles everything upwards at once with water being the culprit. Vehicles, people and buildings disappear fast. Cars and trucks are swept away; light posts and buildings offer little resistance. The water is a few blocks away. I unbuckle my seat belt and run to the bathroom.
Its half open, my wife has been vomiting into the toilet and is cleaning off her face. Without thinking I dart into the small enclosed room and slam the door shut. She’s in the process of turning around while saying, “What the fuck…”
I hug her and tell her I love her. There is no reason for me to believe we are going to survive this. She howls she isn’t ready to die. The bus lifts as water hits. I hear Vincent and Berry scream one last yell in defiance. They die the way they lived their life or so I assume.
I hold my wife close as I feel the fragility and shortness of our existence. At this moment I appreciate her more than anything. My life flashes before me. The bus flops around. My upper body crashes into the ceiling. For the first time in my life I piss myself and everything fades into nothingness.