He cried for Katrina

Contributor: Michael A Perry

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“The last time I cried watching the news,” he says, looking over her shoulder at the open cupboard. “The last time was Katrina. The nine inch color tv. The last days of analog. Still have it in my basement. Useless now.”

“And this time?” she asks.

“50 inch plasma. You ask me, it seems less real. Too perfect. Too pretty. You know I used a fork to get reception on that old thing.”

He stands up and walks over to the cupboard. He closes it.

“Actually, sobbing is a better word to describe it. I sobbed. My wife, she didn’t say a word. But the look she gave me. Man, she always knew what to say without saying it.”

“Did you sob this time?” She clarifies. He is looking up at the ceiling. A light is out. She had noticed this when they first sat down.

He answers with his eyes.

Outside she can still see the fires. They are far away. At night, it seems you never get away from them. And when you live in a desert, there is nothing to put them out.

“Did you turn it on knowing what to expect?” she asks. “I mean, with Katrina, I just turned on the tv and there it was. An old woman waving on a rooftop. Fuckin’ unreal.”

He smiles. And he looks young again. It erases lines and years. Wonderful what a carefully placed f-bomb could do.

“I smelled it before anything. Then I opened up my browser. Then the tv.” He walks to the closet and grabs a light bulb. Standing on the kitchen table in his hiking boots, he changes the light. She lights a cigarette.

“Before all of this, I would never had considered this again,” she says, looking around for something to ash in. “But everything is just sitting out there. It’s not really looting with so few around.”

“What are we doing?” he asks. He voice is strained. “This conversation. Why, in this of all worlds, are you talking around it? Why can’t you just ask me?”

He jumps off the table. At his age, and he still jumps. Suddenly she remembers complaining to dad about being dragged along to his games. The star point guard.

“And do we just smoke inside people’s houses now? Is that our response?” he says. But he is not mad. Not at her.

Outside a light flares in the east. God, another one. They will hear it soon. It has been almost an entire week. She was beginning to think they might have stopped. The sound. Seconds later, a slight rumble. Her ash falls to the floor. She rubs it into the carpet with her bare foot.

“Who carpets their kitchen, Alex? And yes, that is what I do,” she says, exhaling smoke directly at him. “And I’d drink if you had anything decent in your fridge.”

Alex leaves the kitchen, muttering. She considers following. Before she can move she hears glass shattering. Then a string of expletives. Then more glass. But he cried for Katrina, she thinks. Her sensitive little brother. He would need her, and so she made it to his door after all this time, during the end of everything. She couldn’t make it to the funeral, but she was here now. And what she had done to get here. She couldn’t think of that. Not now. Not here.

“Kate,” he calls from the other room.

She tosses her cigarette into a cold cup of coffee left on the counter, probably days old, and follows his voice.

“Here,” he says. “And careful for the glass. But look.”

It’s the 9 inch television. Mustard Yellow. The one they watched the Jetson’s on when they were kids, eating colored cereal and drinking apple juice.

“Where is the fork?” she asks.

“With the rest of the silverware,” he says. “She took it with her. The fork. A
month before all this happened. We tried calling you. We always did. But…A blown tire, they say. That’s it. A blown tire. Her Hyundai veers left, jumps a curb and runs into a flatbed stacked with re-bar. Impaled. Left breast and right eye. Pinned her to the seat. It’s all so impossible. You know she survived. That’s the true horror. They moved her and the re-bar to the ER. And then they tell me she died moments before I made it there? Why tell me that?”

He starts to laugh. She reaches for another cigarette.

“She was taking it to have it polished. The silverware. Who even does that? And all of this?” he says, gesturing toward the windows, the fires, the yellow sky. “I don’t cry for this. This is a welcome distraction.”

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Michael A Perry is an assistant professor in the department of English at Rockford College. He teaches creative writing, African American literature, and popular culture studies. In summers and on breaks, he turns his attention to fiction writing.
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