Child of the Flood, a novel by Dale Maharidge with photographs by Michael Williamson, chronicles the story of John Boucher, an 18-year-old who is knocked unconscious and loses his memory as a result of the post-Katrina flooding. An early draft appeared in the Fall/Winter 2006 issue of DoubleTake/Points of Entry Magazine; the following two chapters are more advanced versions. The novel, now written for young adults and adults, is nearing completion.
Child of the Flood
The wind began in Ghana and then moved across the vastness of the top quarter of the African continent. Picking up speed, the wind veered east, sucking up the Sahara sand in Mauritania until the airborne land was spat out into the Atlantic. From the space photographs, the African dust was like a red summer skirt flying from the hips of a dancing girl as it crossed the warm September waters. It marked the spawn of yet another big one in that season of many hurricanes.
Only now the wind smashed every inch of his young man body, pressing flat the flesh of his hands that clawed at the roof edge.
That eye stared at them from the t.v. like the red grouper they used to catch, back before the fish were caught out and there was no more money in it. They heard it was coming in that house that PawPaw's grandfather built on what they thought was high ground. The house went through 1927. That was as bad as it got, so they guessed the house would stand when the wind first hit. They guessed wrong.
Now the wind was like the hoodoo spirit that came out of the St. Bernard marshes to the shack on stilts that PawPaw used for hunting alligator, where that old swamp ghost crushed him in the night with a weight that felt like cement blocks had been stacked on his boy chest. Only now the wind smashed every inch of his young man body, pressing flat the flesh of his hands that clawed at the roof edge. When he opened his mouth to howl, rain pricked his tongue. He remembered PawPaw's last words: "Man has fuck'thed with God! He has suck'thed at the teat of sin, and God shall have justice!" Then PawPaw swam for it.
The house was bucking. He felt like Jonah on the back of the whale when a two-century-old live oak smashed against the north side. He let go and the wind somersaulted him into the branches; he grabbed hold with one arm as he undid his belt to lash himself to the oak. The house went. As the tree cut free of the crumbling walls, the man's head grazed the roof edge. He was knocked unconscious.
The tree floated three miles into the swamp and came to rest against a levee. The man was still lashed by the belt to the limb, belly-down atop the trunk with his hands flopped in the water, stripped naked by the forces of wind and water. Come morning, he lay still. Afternoon came and went, and he remained in the same position. That evening, his first awareness was the sound of a motorboat and a voice that shouted, "Hey, this one ain't dead!"