After The Flood

Entry by: Alex Fleet

11th December 2015
The Flood Never Ending

Sid had made light of the flood that invaded his home. He had donned his swimming trunks and swum around his kitchen amongst the floating pots and pans, potatoes and plastic containers. 'Almost like being on holiday again' he quipped to Doris his wife who tutted at him from half way up the stairs. The reference was to the swimming pool in the Mediterranean sun a few months before where they could sit at the bar sipping Tia Marias while still in the water. This water was decidedly browner however.

In bed at night they wondered how they would get by. They'd forgotten to renew the insurance. 'We'll just make do and mend' they reassured each other. That's what they had always done, over the years.

Slowly, the spring came, and with it the warmer weather and gradually the house dried out.

Everyone else along the road had moved into hotels, but Sid and Doris stayed put, the last survivors in a ghost town. They washed and rinsed, turned the heating up, aired the place and slowly the memory and dampness and the odour faded away. They found most of their stuff, but some of it had drifted away with the water, and certainly all of it from the garden.

'Down at the bottom of the sea' they mumbled to each other, whenever they looked in vain for some special thing. The most bemusing of all was the tiny plastic wedding ring that had come out of a Christmas cracker years ago and which Sid had slipped on Doris's finger in one of those precious, funny, intimate, memorable moments. It did seem strange, for they were sure it had not even been downstairs to be taken away by the water.

But, maybe, it had joined the rest of the garden rubbish at the bottom of the sea, along with that of everyone else along the whole road - and most probably all their rubbish from the last one hundred years, for the stream ran along behind their gardens and it seemed to be the common solution for the refuse disposal problems.

The stream widened out in the fields where other streams joined it, then in turn joined the main river and the babble of the water became a flow and the flow became a slow moving torrent, a huge volume of water carrying everyone else's rubbish out to sea. The flood of rubbish never ending.

By the time the summer came, the house had all but dried out. The doors fitted again, everything had been painted and smartened up and the odd wobbly bits gave a bit of character to the house. Eddie and Edie, the grandchildren, came down to stay. 'It’s nice to see the old names come back, luv, isn't it', Sid and Doris agreed. “Everything goes around, comes around” each of them would reply.

The twins had come down for the week. They all went for walks through the lanes, across the fields, along the tops of the cliffs the children’s fair hair blowing in the wind, and jumped across the rocks on the beach, exploring the rock pools.

The twins loved the old wooden dinghy the next door neighbour had in their garden. In their imagination they sailed to America and Australia, fighting pirates and sea monsters. The neighbour told them tall tales about his fishing exploits. “And just how big was that minnow you caught again?” laughed Sid as neighbour Frank waved his arms wider and wider. “So would you like to come a-fishing?” said Frank the Neighbour with a wink.

And the next day they all piled into Frank the Neighbour’s car and Eddie and Edie watched the dinghy as it bucked and bounced just behind the rear window of the car as they flew along the narrow, flower-walled lane to the beach. A bit of huffing and puffing saw them at the water’s edge, then the boat was bucking and bouncing, prancing and diving like a horse at the water’s edge as the waves ran up the beach, eager to join the other little white horses further out at sea, a thin line of them lined up waiting at the sand bar a couple of hundred meters out.

Fishing rods, tackle boxes, lunchboxes, bodies, legs and arms were bundled into the boat, followed by Frank the neighbour’s ample backside as he fell clumsily into the boat as Sid gunned the outboard, swept the dinghy around to face the waves and charged towards them, the spray coming clear over the front of the boat, the children screaming with excitement.

They spent the day out there, lazily sitting in the sun, the fish coming along and having a look and sometimes obligingly taking a nibble at the line. Some of them Sid and Frank the Neighbour threw back in. The ones that Eddie and Edie caught were kept, put in a bucket of water to show their grandma on their return. “Why didn’t Grandma come too, Grandpa?” asked the twins. “Oh, she gets a little ill sometimes if she comes out in the boat.”

“What, does she catch a cold or something?”

Sid smiled. “No, she just doesn’t like all this jumping about the boat does.” “But it’s fun” shouted the kids as they held onto each other while a big roller eased its way past beneath them, gently lifting them out of its way.

Finally, as the sun was heading back down towards the horizon, they lazily made their way back.

As well as the fish, Frank the Neighbour had caught two large plastic containers, a few plastic bottles, some discarded fishing line as well as some fishing net and some plastic sheeting. “That’s just a little of it,” he said. “Most of it is down there, floating along under the water where we can’t see it. Tons of it there is. Everything that comes off the land ends up here, in the sea. It’s a flood of junk. If you can imagine what your kitchen was like, Sid, that’s sort of what it’s like in the sea, but maybe not so brown and just a bit more spread out. The bottom is covered with the stuff. Some of it floats for miles. Some of it ends up in the middle of the Ocean. A bit of it is washed up on islands thousands of miles from anywhere. The beaches there are covered with it.” The kids looked at the bits of plastic their lines had snagged upon and which they had stuffed in their pockets.

The tide was well in as they came back into the slipway and the water was rushing up it’s slope as if trying to reach the top, but then giving up and sliding back down, to be followed by another wave that reckoned it could do better. And indeed it did, each wave slowly gaining on the previous ones. Frank the Neighbour manouvered the trailer down into the water and between him and Sid and a couple of other folks they manhandled the dinghy onto the metal frame then the car wheels spun as Frank the Neighbour’s poor hatchback struggled to pull the heavy load up the steep slope while Eddie and Edie watched from a safe distance.

Back home, Doris already had the vegetables prepared for dinner and Sid dropped a couple of large fish on the table. “You’ll stay for dinner?” she said over her shoulder at Frank the Neighbour; a statement rather than a question for they knew he welcomed the opportunity to join them. The routine was practiced, no words needed. Frank the neighbour had the boat; Sid got the fish: Doris prepared and cooked it.

Expertly Doris took her sharp knife and made a start on the first fish while the others recounted their day. The kitchen was warm from the fire and Sid and Frank the Neighbour were beginning to get quite contented, with a warming wee dram in their bellies from the bottle in the cupboard next to the stairs. Doris teased them, as always, about the amount of time and effort it took to get their dinner. “For the price of that boat and the time it took to get these fish, I could have gone down the shop and bought fish for a whole year and in a fraction of the time,” she laughed, and the others joined in, then retorted with the usual “But you can’t beat it fresh from the sea” then awaited Doris’s curt response: but she was silent. They turned to look at her. She had paused, motionless in mid slice. The fish lay half-gutted in front of her.

“I don’t believe it,” she seemed to say.

“What luv?”

“I don’t believe it.” She turned and looked at Sid. “Is this some sort of . . .” then she turned back, scratched her head, looked more closely at the fish. She turned again, back to Sid. “Have you been tampering with this?” she said to Sid. He’d not seen that expression before, demanding, disbelieving, bewildered.

“What’s up luv, what’s going on?”

“This.” Doris said, holding up the tiny plastic wedding ring that had come out of a Christmas cracker years ago and which Sid had slipped on Doris's finger in one of those precious, funny, intimate, memorable moments. It was the same one. It had the same marks, the scratches from when Dillon the dog chewed it twenty years before.

Sid peered at it. “That’s weird.”

“Weird’s not the word. What have you been up to?” demanded Doris.

They peered at the fish together. Sid looked at her, not saying a word, shaking his head.

The fish had been whole. It had not been marked. Doris had noticed the strange shape in the fish’s intestine as she had run her fingers over it, removing its vital organs. The stomach had not been opened before she cut it.

The fish had swallowed the ring.

“It happens,” offered Frank the Neighbour. “The plastic goes into the ocean, the fishes eat it. We eat the fish. Normally we don’t notice it, unless the fish isn’t filleted, then, occasionally, there may be a bit of plastic large enough to notice. But you’ve read, haven’t you, about how the turtles mistake plastic bags for jelly fish and how seals and other animals and wildfowl get tangled up in it all.”

Sid and Doris pondered this for a moment. “Everything goes around, comes around.”

Eddie and Edie chipped in: “Yes, we’ve been learning that at school.” Frank the Neighbour smiled at them quietly.

“Shall we eat?” finally Frank the Neighbour reminded Doris.

“Well, I suppose it’s not actually in the bit we’re going to eat, is it”, Sid said at last.

Frank the neighbour glanced at the twins. He rather felt that Eddie and Edie were going to educate their Grandparents.

“Actually . . .” started the twins.