Ironically, it started with the fires. Little fires on the park swings, books from the library, in the kitchen sink. Little fires in the driveways of people you would meet, on the stairwells of the hospital, in your mother’s mudroom. Buckets of water you would pour upon them. Yet, they burned brighter still. No one seemed concerned—not your mother, your husband, not your children as you grabbed their tiny arms and led them away from the smoke, ash, flame.
Then came the 100-year rain.
The deniers refuse to admit there is a flood, that it’s even raining. They sip cocktails, get massages in members-only resorts; they book tickets for luxury passenger liners, deemed unsinkable ships; they buy up flooded properties on which to build their homesteads, their mansions.
The entrepreneurs sell blow-up palm trees and plastic flamingos as liferafts. They offer 10-for-$5 party balloons. The solution, they say, is plastic and rubber and plastic-and-rubber containers filled with hot air.
The sinkers claim that drowning is the best and truest good. They throw parties in which they sew metal marbles into the seams of their clothes, tie sandbags around their necks with colorful cords, and swallow osmium pellets like chocolate bonbons. Oxygen, they say, is just oppression. Let’s all drown together; let’s all drown.
Yet you find one small maple tree and cling to it, as the fires rage and the waters rise and the hail assaults you.
Something real and beautiful, maybe fragile, is rooted here, and you twist your body into a knot around it, willing your children to use you as an anchor, a rope—because it’s all you have to offer, because it’s everything.
All pretenses stripped away, trembling, clutching the smallest sprouts at the top of the tiniest tree, holding your children by the scruffs of their necks, you whisper a prayer. You look up—perhaps toward heaven, perhaps toward the stomach of the storm, perhaps in a final attempt to resist before surrender.
You see a dove gliding through the stormy sky—in its apricot beak, a green twig being consumed by fire.
Bethany Jarmul is a writer, editor, and poet. Her work has appeared in more than 50 literary magazines and has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best Spiritual Literature. She earned first place in Women On Writing’s Q2 2022 essay contest. Bethany enjoys chai lattes, nature walks, and memoirs. She lives near Pittsburgh with her family. Connect with her at bethanyjarmul.com or on Twitter.