Monday, November 6, 2017

The Flood

A Flood




Snow was expected later in the day. The morning was raw and windy and the clouds crawled over the barren fields like snails leaving tracks of greasy mist. The traffic was competitive and fierce – cars with places to go. On my way to the hearing, I stopped at a Kwik-Trip for gas and a can of soda pop.

I went into the toilet and stood at the urinal. Someone entered but I didn’t look over my shoulder. I heard the stall door clang and, then, a waterfall ensued, a torrent splashing into the porcelain ear of the toilet bowl. I finished and zipped my trousers and, then, washed my hands and the water drizzling into the sink was a mere rivulet compared with mighty stream still surging in the stall. I paused for a minute, waiting for the jet spraying in the metal cubicle to lessen and, then, cease. But the blast of urine didn’t diminish. To the contrary, the stream seemed to increase until it was a deafening roar, an endless cascade sprayed through an opening that had to be the size of a garden hose, enough I thought to put out every fire on earth.

In the dim mirror, a pallid stranger gazed at me. The ghastly downpour continued and, suddenly, I was stricken with terror – I didn’t want to see the vessel from which this endless jet of urine was emerging. I emptied the mirror of my presence, plunged through the rest room door and, after paying the cashier, rushed to my car and sped away.



After the hearing, it began to snow, tentatively at first, but, then, with more force. Visibility decreased and greyish slush accumulated on the highway.

East of a small town, the road passed farms, most of them melting away in the grey, snowy distance. The rivers bridged by highway showed spines of bone-white rapids through their brown flesh.

A shelter-belt stretched out to the murky horizon. The field beside the column of trees had been cut by the plow and was muddy. Big pale heaps of ricotta cheese, some of them head high, had been dumped in the field. The white pyramids of cheese seemed to repel the snow swirling around them. I had never seen anything like this and it was a curious spectacle – the snowstorm, the wet dark earth tattooed with furrows, the tons of slippery-looking white cheese piled in a serrated range, a miniature sierra of ricotta, left exactly as dumped from the truck.

I supposed that the cheese would be plowed under the soil to enhance the field’s productivity.



A glacial esker ran alongside the highway where the road crossed the featureless plain. The esker looked like a railroad embankment, twenty-five or thirty-feet high, with a flat top. The landform was more sinuous than the road and seemed feminine; it wiggled its hips at the highway sometimes approaching closely and, then, flirtatiously retreating into the white cloud of falling snow.

At intervals, gravel companies had pierced the esker and were unpacking its contents. I saw the bolted gates, the muddy driveways into the gravel pit, the skeletal towers of crushing apparatus and the big earthmovers parked next to dull-looking ponds of water dissolving the fluffy flakes slipping into them.

An esker is a complex thing with many parts and the glacier and its streams that had packed the thing worked efficiently, cramming maximum content into the undulating embankment. On the flat top of the esker, weeds were growing and some small brush. Where the landform was cut open, I could see stratified sand and gravel, pebbles glistening in the snow fall, glacial till, and a wet mortar of pale glacial flour, stone cut to tiny flakes of silica dust. Big, surly erratics crouched in the base of the till and, at some locations, the sediment was cross-bedded.

The gravel pits were inactive. All the dump trucks had been pressed into service hauling cheese to fertilize the fields. Graded heaps of stone, conical as a Phyrgian cap, stood alongside the metal crusher-machines. Sand slumped into its angle of repose.

When the flood came, the esker would be a good place to seek high ground.



I passed another field where pale grey and white mounds of cheese curds were waiting to be folded into the brown clods and dark furrows of the acreage. Shelter belts ranged across the country, fading into the flurries on the horizon. The ground was too wet to support the implements necessary to plow the cheese into the soil.

Perhaps, it wasn’t fertilizer cheese, but seed-cheese. Maybe, the farmers were preparing to grow a crop of cheese. I couldn’t tell how the mounds of cheese were going to be used. I know that cheese can be grown under the earth like potatoes and, perhaps, that was the plan.

At the edge of the field, the filthy yellow flood was advancing. The ditches were full of fluid that seemed warm and that steamed in the snow storm and the flakes hissed as they melted in the liquid.