Sunday, September 04, 2005

Better days

I couldn't take the idleness at Aunt Judy's. I hadn't sat still that long since the storm. I wasn't used to the quiet. Or the luxuries. Things like clean water and air conditioning. I felt like I was getting soft. Taking advantage of Judy while my parents and grandparents pull together the broken pieces of their lives. And I have this nagging voice whispering inches from my ear: Get ice. Get water. Get food.

So I kiss the kids, hugs my beloved bride, and hit the road, early. Have to do something. Have to obey the compulsion. Have to act. Ice. Water. Food.

On the drive through the fetid remains of Gulfport, I abruptly notice something. An alien in the sun. An angel. I'm actually under a red light. A real, live, working red light! There's power to the intersection. There is electricity coming from somewhere. People are obeying traffic laws. We are inching out the stone age, one utility at a time. RED LIGHTS! Who would have thought I'd be happy to see one? I love this first red light. I watch it shrink in the rear view. Fascinated by its simplicity. Its single-minded devotion. The herald of more to come. I'd kiss it. If I could. With tongue.

On the way to my father's house, I stop by the nearest supply site. Armed troops, still. Fatigues and guns and sun-baked recruits barely out of the teens shuttled here to save what is left of our lives. They help me appease the voice. Ice. Water. And food. Fill the trunk, thank the soldiers, and roll home to divvy up the spoils between parents and my grand parents.

Everyone is sweating. Everyone is tired. This is the new life. But we are together in our misery.

And better days are coming. We see them down the street. In the form of foreign power company trucks. Fat with linemen and fresh power-poles. Any day now, we will have electricity. Then air conditioning. Then clean water. And real food. And the kids will return to school. And the stores will re-open. And the restaurants. And the malls. And all the roads will be repaired. We see it down the street. Better days.

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