The last Monday in June dawns, and I am tired and sleepy and despite sleeping well, am awake much earlier than my body wants me to be. And while hot New Orleans summers are almost a stereotype at this point, it’s already hotter here than it usually is at this time; it feels more like August out there than late June. Taking the streetcar down to the Quarter both Saturday and Sunday drained me, physically; I think that’s why I am so tired and out of sorts this morning. Perhaps that will allow me to write from my subconscious this morning; we shall see how that goes.
I was so drained yesterday after I got home that I sat down at the computer and started Chapter 21; I managed about 300 excruciatingly painful words before I finally gave up and retired to my easy chair to watch the end of Cardinal and an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale; we are about three episodes behind on it. It’s hard to watch, particularly with what is going on in the country at the moment, quite frankly; the idea of children being taken away from their mothers, while always sickening, is particularly rough to watch right now.
But I just have to get through this week and I only have a two-day work-week next week; then comes a lovely six-day stay-cation, or whatever you want to call it. I am definitely looking forward to that down time to clean the house, move some things to storage, clean out some cabinets and so forth; I’ve decided that the 4th itself will be my day of rest and then I will focus on getting things done on the other days I have off, which will be lovely.
But all I really want to do right now is go back to sleep. But I must persevere. The spice must be mined.
The next story in my collection Promises in Every Star and Other Stories is “Disaster Relief”:
“Most of the damage is upstairs,” I said as I unlocked the front door to my apartment and pushed the door open. I stood in the doorway and allowed him to pass. “Although we did get some mold down here on the walls.” I shrugged. I’d shown the wreckage that had been my home for just two months to so many people by this time that it didn’t affect me anymore. The first time I’d walked in after Katrina had gone through I had been in shock. You never expect to see your home in that condition; mold running down the walls, plaster wreckage covering the stairs, your bed a mildew factory. It had made me sick to my stomach.
Well, that and the smell coming from the refrigerator.
It was my home, it was the same apartment I’d been so excited to move into a million years ago in June, but I didn’t feel the same way about it as I did before.
Christian Evans, my FEMA inspector, whistled as he walked in and took a look around. “Nice place.”
“It was.” I used to love the high ceilings, the two ceiling fans, the curved staircase leading up to the second floor, and the hardwood floor I polished until it was like a mirror. Now the floor was covered with dust from the collapsed ceiling upstairs. The plaster on the walls in the living room was cracked, and the true enemy was evident on the ceiling—those horrible black spreading spots of mold that looked like ink blots. But at least the ever-present stench of mold and mildew was hardly noticeable anymore.
And I’d won my epic battle with the refrigerator.
“But I imagine you’ve seen a lot worse.” I went on, hugging myself. It was a cool morning with a strong breeze blowing that made it seem colder, and of course I didn’t have the heat turned on. Not much point in trying to warm the place when there was no ceiling upstairs. Of course he’s seen worse, I scolded myself. That had been my litany ever since I’d come back.
You’re one of the lucky ones, remember that.
Christian shrugged. He was a small man, maybe about five eight, in his early thirties. He was cute in that nondescript metrosexual “is he gay or straight?” way. He had a light brown goatee, and had gelled his brown hair into that just-got-out-of-bed look that seemed to be all the rage. Before the storm, I’d always referred to that style as the freshly fucked look. I’d never really cared for it much, but it worked on him. He had a way of grinning that somehow worked with the gelled hair. “I’ve been out to the 9th Ward and Lakeview,” he said as he pulled his laser pointer out of his pocket and started measuring the dimensions of the room. “So you lost your couch?”\
This story came about because of a post on my blog I made about our FEMA inspector.
That was a crazy weekend, all those years ago. My friends and fellow authors Timothy and Becky, part of the Timothy James Beck writing team, had scheduled a book event the week before Thanksgiving as a fundraiser for Katrina relief and invited me to participate; we’d become friends through our blogs and had communicated a lot, and this was an opportunity to meet in person as well as for me to get away from the ruins of New Orleans for a few days. I had already planned on driving up to Kentucky for the holiday, and the plan was to swing through Illinois afterwards to pick up Paul and Skittle and bring them home at long last. My car needed new spark plugs and possibly a tune-up, which I planned on getting done in Houston. My grandmother died on the Thursday I was in Houston; my mother called me on Friday to tell me the service/funeral would be on Sunday so I needed to go to Alabama on Saturday. Okay, fine, cool. Then Paul called me to tell me the FEMA instructor was coming by at 8 am on Saturday morning to go through our house, so I needed to be there.
My car was finished at six thirty that evening, so I drove back to New Orleans from the auto repair shop and got up at seven the next morning to meet the FEMA inspector–and once he was done, I was going to drive to Alabama. The FEMA inspector was very attractive and sexy; after the tour of the apartment I wrote in my blog Is it wrong to find your FEMA inspector sexy? I could probably write a really weird erotic short story about having sex with your FEMA inspector in the ruins of your house.
Someone–I don’t remember who–commented on the blog not only asking me to write the story but promising to include/publish it; whether it was on a website or in an anthology, I don’t recall. So, while I was at my parents’ in Kentucky for the holidays, I wrote “Disaster Relief.” it was my first Katrina piece of fiction, and it was pretty good, if I do say so myself.