Wrinkly Bits
A Blog by Gail Cushman
The Stillwater River Flood of 2022 Story 2

This is a continuation of the Story 1. Although this event really happened to real people, I have fictionalized parts of it and changed the names…please check my website if you missed Story 1. gailcushman.com
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Melba opened the door and stepped into an ankle-deep pool of cold water, which now was covering the porch. The water was moving, slightly swirling around the edges of the door and in the darkness, she could make out that it covered the roses and the fence, but the rest was pitch black. The rumbles were unfamiliar sounds, but she identified them as boulders being carried down Rosebud Creek by the force of water. She looked at her watch, it was nearly 4 a.m.

She heard pounding at her back door, and Mark’s voice called,
“Mom? Mom, come on, it’s time to go. Grab something to wear and get to the truck.”

“But I’m not ready. I need to gather up some stuff that I’ll need,” she yelled back.

Mark swore under his breath, but said, “Didn’t you do that last night? No time now. I’ll get your meds while you put something on, plus a jacket. It’s a little chilly. Where are your purse and keys?” as he raised his voice. The creek is very high, and we need to leave. Let’s go.”

“What about…?”

“No! No, Mom, nothing else. Just you and Henry. I’ve got your pills, let’s go,” he was worried, and the water was coming up fast.
Mark placed his hand on her arm and began to lead her through the water, “Wait, I forgot my phone,” she told him, patting her pockets as she began to turn back.

“I have it,” Mark said, and pulled her phone from his pocket and handed it to her. “You left it on the counter. Here it is.”

“My house. My lovely home. I don’t want to leave it,” Melba stated, blinking back tears.

“Don’t worry, Mom, it’ll be fine. It’s withstood a lot all these years, it’ll withstand a little water,” Mark reassured her, not really believing what he said. “What’s important now is getting you and Henry out of here. You can replace everything in your house, but we can’t replace you. Let’s move.”

Melba got in her car and the water was already touching the tires. She started the car while Mark let Henry in and told her, “I’ll lead the way to Absarokee, some of these bridges are about ready to go and we don’t want drive into the river, so stay close.”

“Okay, I’ll stay right behind you,” she said, taking one last look at the life she was leaving behind.

When they arrived at Absarokee, Mark pulled to the side of the road and got out. “Are you okay to drive to Billings? Roni is expecting you. You’ve got your phone if something happens.” He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “Call me when you get to Roni’s, and I’ll see you in a day or two. Enjoy Tom Cruise.”

Melba nodded without saying anything. Then said, “Thank you, Mark, I’ll be fine.”

On a good day, a trip to Billings took over an hour, but it was dark and raining lightly, enough to use the wipers. She thought, “I hate driving in the rain and dark, but I should be there by six.”

Her mind was both numb and restless. Maybe coffee would help. She drove up to the McDonald’s and ordered a cup of black coffee. She was unsure of how she felt. If Mark hadn’t come, she wouldn’t have left, she knew that. But then, he didn’t give her a choice. Earlier in the week she had watched full-grown aspens tumbling down the creek, but surely her house would be solid.

Her mind jumped back and forth, remembering the good times, the picnics, the kids swimming in the creek, the floats they had tied to the trees to “ride the waves,” they called it. She thought about the challenges that might lie ahead. She wondered about her insurance, but that didn’t seem to be important right now.

Her family had alluded to her moving to Billings and she cringed as she thought of it. Stillwater Valley was her home. She would stay there.

She was numb. As she drove to Roni’s house, she shook her head. It was a dream, a bad dream, even a nightmare. Surely, she would wake up and things would be back to normal.

The rest of the story: Melba is fine, but her house was swept away with no trace of her sixteen years on the creek. She is staying with friends while her son fixes her a new home.

If you enjoy Gail’s blogs, please share. gailcushman.com All her books are on sale on her website until the end of July.

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