Scenes from a hurricane | Opinion | The Press and Standard

by | October 15, 2016 5:00 pm

Last Updated: October 12, 2016 at 12:28 pm

Four days before the projected arrival of Hurricane Matthew: Widdle Baby tests generator, puts boat in barn, ties down picnic table. I check chocolate levels in pantry.
Three days before: Widdle buys tarp, tape, batteries, extra flashlights, canned goods and water. I go to the library for more books.
Two days before: Widdle secures river house, removes loungers and ropes from dock, ensures that outdoor lanterns are in working order, verifies that all prescriptions are current and checks on the neighbors. I run extra miles in case rain prevents it later.
Day before: Widdle makes sure church sanctuary is secure, calls relatives, friends and acquaintances to double-check their emergency plans and moves our vehicles away from the trees encircling our house. I take a nap.
The day of: Widdle attends a mandatory meeting in Sumter, picks up ice and bread, and tells his sister-in-law to shelter at our house. I wake up with a bad head cold and whine for hours.
Now, I know how spoiled and selfish this makes me sound. But the fact is, Widdle controls crisis management at the Ponderosa. I don’t have to do anything because he has a detailed plan, complete with contingencies. That grinning guy out there in the driving rain, carrying a safe and cranking a generator? That’s my Widdle.
Back to the hurricane: My sister-in-law arrived with food, batteries, more water, a satchel of wine and three cats. I don’t dislike cats, but they are as unfamiliar to me as say, a hairy yak. Thus I was startled to feel tiny, groping toes on my knee as I ate my tuna salad. And by startled I mean “leaped up screaming.” Calico Callie zoomed off in one direction and I in the other.
Shaken, I downed medicinal toddy and retired, not realizing another cat, jet-black Andi, was sulking under our bed. In her 10 years of existence, I’ve never seen Andi in the flesh, because she and her sibling, Ari, hide when Widdle and I visit my SIL’s house.
As I sank into a nap, I remembered I hadn’t packed a go-bag yet. Groggily, I reached under the bed and yanked out Widdle’s black duffel bag — but of course, it wasn’t a black duffel bag. After much yowling and hissing, some of it from the cat, we too parted ways quickly. I never did see Ari. I was afraid to see Ari.
The day after Matthew: I may have forgotten to mention the horizontal rain and howling winds.
Outside, an oak tree toppled in the side yard; branches and limbs littered the ground. The roads were blocked in both directions with uprooted trees, and the entire village had no power.
Inside, an interesting thing happened. As we alI staggered around holding lanterns like so many haints, everyone’s vanity vanished. When you can’t shower, mascara doesn’t matter. Sis pushed her hair back and curled up in tennis socks with her tablet; I wore cut-off jeans, pulled my greasy locks into a sloppy bun and owned my chapped nose and puffy eyes.
Widdle, smirking in sweatpants, said, “I’ll answer the door if anyone comes.”
“You’re expecting Avon?” I asked, and stomped off with Kleenex stuffed in each nostril.
As of this writing (Oct. 8), we still have no power — but the generator is rumbling steadily, Sis and cats made it back to her condo, and I may actually take a hot bath tonight.
But she left a litterbox in the bathroom. And I’m afraid to look under the bed.

(Julie R. Smith, who still looks like a haint, can be reached at

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