The moments of lucidity were rarer and rarer, but when they came, he regaled me with tales of swallowed teeth, basement brawls, and AIDS tests administered at midnight in ramshackle midtown health ... [+]
The garbage can is full again. I drag it inside and empty it over the floor, adding to the foot of water already standing in the house. The bathtub and the sinks have been running nonstop for several hours now.
At least the house is small. Any larger—we'd be here for weeks, not days.
This was all Jack's idea, and I have to say it's a good one, the best he's had. Simple, even. We are going to fill the house with water. Right now, he is inspecting the windows, the cracks around the windows in Maddie's room, sealing them with duct tape, electrician's tape, Scotch tape, all the tape we have.
"When you bring the garbage can in," he says, "some of the water gets out. We've got to stop opening the doors." He stops sealing up the windows and sloshes around the living room. "I can make a hole in the roof."
"Go ahead then," I say, "make holes in the roof, but don't bother the raccoons up there, okay?"
"Raccoons are long gone."
So what if he doesn't believe me.
The rain had been coming down for a week when Jack proposed we do this. An adventure. He didn't call it that—I call it that. I'm watching the water rise, watching furniture, a chair here, a lamp there, come unmoored and start floating, or fall over with a splash and drift through the house. The water is up to my thighs now.
Jack's hole in the roof was a success: rain streams down in our bedroom. He's thinking about putting another hole in the kitchen ceiling. When he made the first hole, he went into the attic, chased away the raccoons and their babies, and sawed a hole in the roof. For the second hole, he says it's easier to use the shotgun.
"You want to do it?" he asks.
I sight upwards and pull the trigger. Plaster and pink insulation everywhere. Another shell, another squeeze: more pink snow falling into the overflowing sink.
When you see your house filled with water, you forget that it is your house. You forget things that have happened there. They all happened in some other house. Some other person. I blow up one of Maddie's old floating rings and paddle around her room. Her dollhouse is completely underwater.
She would like this, I think, if she were here. She would grab Jack around the neck and he'd stride through the water, pull her along, toss her up, let her splash down, pluck her up again. We were going to start swimming lessons in the summer.
She loved the water.
Jack is shooting more holes in the ceiling, one after another; the ceiling fan in the living room falls down, bringing a raccoon with it. We watch him tread water, his ringed eyes not betraying even a hint of confusion.
The raccoon swims toward the kitchen cabinets, sinks his claws into the wood and climbs on top of them, in that space between cabinet and ceiling. He starts gnawing at the speckled plaster. He knows where he belongs. He knows where to go.
"Hey," Jack says. We are bobbing in Maddie's room. Her bed shimmers like white sand under the water. All the furniture from her dollhouse bobs around us, tiny chairs and beds and even a very small bathtub.
"What?" The water is up to our necks now.
"Do you want to go into the attic?"
"We can stay down here a little longer."
"Okay," he says.
Jack did a good job sealing the windows: the water keeps rising at a steady rate. We slither up the thin wooden stairs of the pull-down ladder into the attic.
After being in the water so long, it feels strange to stand. Everything is shriveled, pruny. The raccoons are huddled in a dry corner, away from the holes in the roof. They stare at us, like they know. As if they can feel things. The water is nearly to the ceiling beneath us.
"Can we stay a little longer?"
He shrugs and stares at the raccoons. "When they leave, we leave."
That sounds like a good plan. The raccoons stare back at us.