HOMECOMING 1997

They returned to California in the rainy season. Over the Santa Cruz mountains the heavy clouds brought their load of rain to the slopes above the bay, loosing the water over oak woodland, over evergreen forest, over the long reservoirs that slaked the city’s thirst, over the mansions of the very rich and the houses of the less rich. The old streams filled and where they ran aboveground cut a little into the banks of their courses; where they ran belowground they set a faster pace through concrete culverts to the bay, but they could not pick up any more of the water than they already carried. The little optimistic houses built on floodplains and bay mud, the houses that sat over the culverts behind their yards of lemon trees and pansies and hydrangea—all still fruiting and blooming through the wet—now sat in a swamp. Sump pumps burbled the water out into the street, but once the street filled up the water had nowhere to go. The sewers were full and below tideline. The little yards were soggy. The bulbs of freckled oxalis buried in the yards were bloated with wet and ready to perform this year’s conquest of the backyard rectangle. But not yet; first, the water rose. It rose up in the street and crept up the driveways. It made it halfway up the first step of the porches. Volvos, BMWs, Mercedes sedans were moved from the driveways. The water covered the first step. Land Cruisers and Explorers were moved and parked on higher ground. Still the water rose. The little optimistic houses, the houses of the working man’s California dream, had now been bought by the rich and it was inconceivable that the water would invade a house that had been bought for half a million, for three quarters of a million dollars. But the water was egalitarian; it did not know the difference between a house bought two decades before for forty thousand and one bought this year for five hundred thousand. It crept over the porch and lightly tested the seal around the front door. The water was in no hurry; it was used to taking its time. The water found its ways in. And so the children even of the rich were awakened in the middle of the night and carried by their parents through two feet of water from their bedrooms. Luckily the car had been parked up the street and would start. Luckily some friends lived up the hill, where the streams ran aboveground. They had bought a year earlier. The two of them came back in the wet, and all she could see were the oak leaves shining darkly and the hills greening up under the summer stubble….

Comments

  1. Excerpt? it's nice, spare writing.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Yes, the opening of an unfinished novel. The rain here brought it back.

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