- Author: Mark Wheaton
Book online «Flood Plains Mark Wheaton (inspirational books for students .TXT) 📖». Author Mark Wheaton
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For my grandfather
“The sea’s only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong.” —Primo Levi
Mother of Mercy, this darkness will be the death of me, thought Big Time.
The forty-eight-year-old father of four groped around the dimly lit kitchen for the coffee maker, wondering who he might talk to about getting daylight savings to come early this year. Finding yesterday’s dirty filter in the brew basket, he opened the door under the sink and proceeded to toss the grounds-filled bag on the floor. The damp splat it made when he missed the trash bag made him wonder if the money saved on keeping the lights off whenever possible was cancelled out by the two paper towels he now used to clean it up.
He stifled a grunt. His family’s money troubles weren’t that bad, but his mind wouldn’t let him off the hook.
Big Time bent over and flipped the offending filter into the trash bag, fighting a juvenile urge to slam the cabinet door shut. His wife wasn’t home from her night shift running credit card approvals, but it would wake up the boys and his mother, Erna. He peered out the kitchen window, over the toy-littered backyard and up to the slowly purpling South Texas skyline.
They’d been talking hurricane on the news all week, enough to make Big Time jumpy, to say nothing of his family. He couldn’t see the clouds, but the way the meteorologists were saying, chances of it running up against Houston were slim.
That’s when he realized the troubling thing about the sky was that it was a little too bright for his tastes.
“Shit, am I already late?” he asked himself.
A quick glance at a clock, which read 5:09, reminded him for the sixth time in the past ten minutes that he was perfectly on time, just decaffeinated.
Big Time plugged in the coffee maker and hit the “brew” button, the little orange light burning to life. He calculated the pennies he saved by unplugging the thing during the day and wondered if more folks would do the same if they knew how much latent energy was expended by keeping plugs in their sockets.
Big Time’s was a tall, well-built black man with muscular hands and arms, a completely bald head, and a neatly trimmed mustache. He was sometimes mistaken for a football player who let himself would get a little pudgy around the middle. But he’d never played sports, barely worked out, and attributed his physique to an inability to sit still for long.
He reached into the refrigerator, grabbed a Diet Dr. Pepper, and extracted a faded “Big Gulp” mug from the dishwasher. He poured the equivalent of three cups of coffee into the mug and finished it with twenty ounces of soda. He swirled the ice cold and boiling hot liquids together and remembered hearing a late-night comedian once joke about heating a freezing cold apartment by turning on a hot shower, only to create a thunderstorm in his living room. He looked into his mug and grinned, a tempest in a tea cup.
His gaze ventured back out to the dark skies giving way to dawn and imagined the sound of thunder. He’d had his share of tempests.
Hell, one was enough.
• • •
This was what a reporter named Matt Loney had described Alan Terrell as having when he ran. Loney had been covering the 800-meter at a Louisiana all-region event when Alan was a senior in high school, a race the young man won. He’d also won the 400 and led his 1600-meter relay team to victory as well. It was buried in the sports pages of a Lafayette daily, but Alan’s grandmother kept a copy in her purse from then on. When Alan ran for the Tigers, she would repeat that phrase to anyone in the stands who couldn’t get away fast enough.
She’d even tried to show the article to Carl Lewis the four times Alan and she had ventured into Texas for the Track Invitationals in Austin. Lewis hadn’t seemed to understand, merely shook her hand and wished Alan good luck, and after that, she didn’t allow Lewis’s name spoken in her house. Then, she had a heart attack and their house in the Lower Ninth Ward went quiet for a while.
Whenever Alan raced, he was trying to live up to that description as well as others that came along.
“Boy runs like a thoroughbred.”
“Looks like a springing panther.”
“Like watching a water moccasin cut through water.”
Yeah, leave it to Southern white reporters to refer to him as black animals. He took pride in the fact that his skin showed off his cut muscles better than the white boys he competed against. They were a rarity in the African American-dominated track meets of the South, but he was looking forward to running against the cream in Colorado Springs someday. All these pretty Prefontaines from the big east colleges descending on the Olympic Training Facility with no idea how fast he’d blitz past them, thin air and all. He planned to break a few of their records in the process, too.
But that would have to wait, if just for a little while.
This morning, Alan couldn’t even find the T-shirt he wore to the factory the day before so he could go run in it. The living room of the small apartment he’d woken up in was littered with unpacked moving boxes and little else, but it was dark. He finally spied the faded, purple-and-gray Geaux Tigers freebie half-in half-out of a box of old clothes, but then realized he wasn’t alone.
Peering out of one of three doors leading to the living room was his daughter, Mia. Though she