By Sally Holland
As most of you know, I’ve been working on a novel that has to do with a hurricane for quite a while. I wrote the below chapter as part of that novel several years back and, to be honest, there’s a good chance it won’t make it into the final version. The picture on the news of the flooded nursing home caused by Hurricane Harvey is making me reconsider. What do you think? Feel free to comment.
Sheriff Tucker was up to his knees in floodwater, his arms filled with 110-pounds of geriatric bossiness by the name of Mrs. Lovington.
“Before we go, can you carry me over to my chifferobe so I can get my personal things?” she asked. “I’ll need some clothes and my purse and, of course, my pills.”
The Palm Meadows retirement home was under water and the sheriff and his men were helping the staff evacuate the residents as quickly as possible, but the nightgown-clad Mrs. Lovington had her own pace and she wasn’t about to alter it for a mere flood.
Her room wasn’t large. The furniture consisted only of an antique wooden bed with a small table beside it, a couple of wing backed chairs and the huge ornate chifferobe that housed her clothes: pieces that spoke of home, but were unable to mask the institutional feel of the plain white walls, and plastic blinds.
Mrs. Lovington gestured to a closed door on the other side of the room. “You’ll need a bag to carry all this. There is one the perfect size on the top shelf of my closet. Can you carry me over there?”
“We don’t have time,” said Sheriff Tucker.
“I must have my things if I’m forced to leave,” she drawled firmly. “I simply cannot go without them.”
In his arms, Sheriff Tucker could feel her back tensing up. The flood was already creating stress among the elderly inhabitants. He didn’t relish the idea of her throwing a fit if he tried to force her to leave against her will. He carried her back to the bed and put her down.
“It will be faster if I get your things together for you.”
Her face held the smug pleasure of a woman knowing she is getting her way. He waded over to the closet.
“On the top shelf, there’s a flowered tote bag. No, not that one. That has the Miami skyline on it.” She spoke as if he were stupid. “I want the one with tulips on it.”
He found the bag and held it out for a nod of verification before wading back to the chifferobe.
“My medicines are in the top drawer. Why don’t you just bring them over here to the bed and I’ll go though and figure out which ones I need.” She straightened the coverlet creating a space for the prescription bottles.
“There’s no time for that,” the sheriff said as he emptied the drawer’s contents into her flowered bag.
“You don’t need to make a mess of things,” Mrs. Lovington reprimanded. The sheriff glanced at her perched on her bed like a princess, her back straight, very much in control, in spite of the water lapping at her box springs.
“That drawer there,” she pointed to one of the larger ones. “I’ll need my blue skirt. No, that one isn’t blue. It’s periwinkle. I want the blue one.”
He rifled through until he found the correct skirt and it’s matching top. He waded back to the bed. She put up her hand to stop him.
“I’ll need some underthings,” she blushed. “Perhaps you should carry me over there to choose them.”
He stopped, winced, and turned back to the chifferobe. “Which drawer?”
“That one,” she pointed to the second one from the top. “I want the pink ones with the bows.”
Sheriff Tucker ignored his vibrating cell phone. He stuck his hand into the drawer of women’s underwear just as one of his deputies poked his head into the room.
“Hurry up, Sheriff, I think we’ve got just about everybody else.”
Just as quickly he was gone but the sheriff couldn’t stop feeling embarrassed. He grabbed a stack of slippery nylon panties and bras and heaven knows what else and shoved them into the flowered tote.
“We need to get going now,” he said.
“My jewelry.” She pointed to her bedside table.
Sheriff Tucker topped off the bag with a jewelry box and a framed photo of a much younger looking Mrs. Lovington presumably with Mr. Lovington.
“And don’t forget my trophy. I won first place.” She beamed with pride.
First place in the Palm Meadow Retirement Home beauty pageant. He shoved it in the bag so that the golden crowned head poked out the top. Hooking the bag over his shoulder, he picked up the featherweight woman again.
“We need to get you to a shelter, Mrs. Lovington.”
She leaned her head against her shoulder and contentedly relaxed into his arms, “Of course, Mr. Lovington. Take me away.”
He cleared his throat. “I’m taking you to Bayou Elementary School. They have a cot set up for you there.”
“How lovely,” she sighed.