Friday, August 11, 2017

BEACH TRIP (flash fiction)

[Well, I didn't get into Fall/Lines, so I post my latest flash fiction here.]



The last thing said before she died was, “I want to go to the beach.” At eighty-eight and hospice bedridden, she delivered a poorly-timed request. Anna Maureen Anderson seldom strayed from the southern upcountry during her many years of midwifery. Most people simply called her Auntie Mo, because she never seemed to stop moving. She’d made a few trips to Atlanta and Gatlinburg; twice to Charleston, though she never got close to the shore. Otherwise, she spent her time ministering to women and babies from the Georgia and North Carolina borders to just west of Columbia. Nearly five hundred souls showed up at her funeral; a lovely pink pine box laid deep to the strains of her favorite gospel hymns. About the closest she was going to get to the Atlantic Ocean was a manicured plot in a small cemetery that straddled the Broad River. Or so we thought.
Rain came like a Biblical curse that October. A thousand-year flood, they said. We had barely begun to cope with her loss before a jet stream shot straight into South Carolina like a sodden spear. We’d never seen anything like it, not even Hurricane Hugo. Some areas registered more than twenty inches in less than five days. And as water drained, rivers swelled. A flood gauge on Gills Creek was destroyed in rapids and more than fifteen people perished, many trapped in their cars. Dams failed and roads were swept away. The whole country watched as we were washed downstream.
While the deluge destroyed, no one actually saw Auntie Mo escape. It took several days to survey damage before anyone noticed her plot was empty. A miniature rectangular pond amidst a forest of headstones, hers not yet delivered. None of her nearby rest-mates had fled. Two onlookers said they remembered seeing a clay-smeared casket riding a surge down the Broad, and several eyewitnesses recalled a similar scene near the dam break alongside the State Museum in Columbia. One wonders what denizens of Congaree Swamp must have thought, as it surely passed through their domain. There were no reports from Lake Wateree or the Santee.
A few days later several people called 911 to report a pink casket caressing the curves of Folly Beach. It was gone, however, by the time a county employee drove out to retrieve it. Later there were sightings at Hunting Island, Hilton Head, and Tybee---but no one could corral the wayward woman. One person claimed to have seen a pink crate race by Daytona. And then she was gone, forever. The authorities think she probably sank somewhere in the Atlantic surf, though I’d like to think she made it to the Bermuda Triangle. But you never know. She said a few times that she would have liked to visit Copacabana.