Saturday, August 2, 2008Support Services Inc.
Support Services Inc.
The boss had warned us we’d be getting busy as the years went by; some of us barely had time to recover from our last mission before we were sent off again. I was manning the phones today, that job isn’t necessarily an easier one. Triaging is not the most relaxing way to while away the shift, not that actually doing the foot work is easier but it is more rewarding.
Word was spreading that areas under our jurisdiction were flooding from a rain engorged river, while other areas were on fire from a careless cigarette smoker. See second hand smoke really is bad for you! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could divert the flood waters to the blazing regions? That would be too easy. Then there were some hurricanes, and earthquakes in the forecast. Thank heavens we were fully staffed with competent reliable help. Work ethic s was at a premium; no one ever called in or shirked their duties. We had no sluggards or control freaks. Those had been disposed of early in the game, choosing to set up a competitive business that would go up in smoke someday.
The phones were buzzing up and down the long tables, and every caller had a real person to speak with, no automated responses here. Controlled chaos ruled around me, everyone swishing this way and that way as they responded to caller’s requests.
My phone rang. The caller ID registered a familiar name. This was a repeat caller, someone who called daily, rain or shine, fire or no, just to keep in touch.
“Hello, my name is Gabby, how may I help you?”
“Flood waters are filling my house and I have no way out! I’m trapped!” was Suzi’s panic-stricken reply.
“Don’t worry. Go to the roof and wait. I have someone on the way,” I assured her. She thanked me profusely with earnest gratitude before hanging up.
I knew full well why she waited till the last minute to escape. In plan A we had been evacuating her region for days before the turbulent river waters rose to this drastic level but her frail grandmother didn't want to be moved, she was born in that house and by God she would die there; and die she did (by God), of natural causes, (well in this day and age natural causes could be gun fire, car accidents, terrorist activity, or drowning in a flood but in this case it was heart failure) the whole while trying to convince her granddaughter to get the heck out. At ninety she was prepared to go, but her granddaughter wouldn't leave. Some one less devoted would have been on the first train out of town!
I sent plan B into action. As Suzi climbed the ladder to the roof I contacted the nearest motor boat. The only motor boat containing another person who had waited until the last minute to evacuate, claiming he would not abandon his house or possessions. Well, he changed his mind as the waters gradually whipped about his feet, then ankles and hips and he forsook greed and gave into surrender and defeat. The man in the boat was unknown to us. He’d never made a call to this number, choosing instead to verbally bash our services whenever possible, but he was going to receive a call today that would possibly change the course of his life.
Suzi heard the drone of an engine and waved frantically catching Drake's attention. Navigating past roof tops, light poles and wires, he managed to haul Suzi and her backpack aboard his little craft as the waters rose above her roof. Never mind all those lectures about accepting rides from strangers. Granny’s house was now history, only a record in a court house and insurance office.
"Thank God you found me!" Suzi forthrightly praised her creator as she lowered her self onto a soaked seat: all four sides of the boat see sawed up and down.
“God? God had nothing to do with this lady." explained her rescuer. "If you don't mind, I get the credit myself! God has left the building." Drake's anger and resentment at some imaginary super deity were just a little more than obvious to Suzi as he handed her his very orange, very large, very cumbersome, life jacket.
A helicopter flew over, dipping and rising, looking for people trapped on shrinking roof tops. The little boat was hard to see among all the flotsam and white capped waves created by the gusty full bodied air. The sun, concealed behind thunderclouds, was slipping into western horizon. The two occupants stood and waved recklessly yelling at the top of their vocal cords.( Like anyone in a helicopter could hear their vocalizations that high up through this squall.)
Clouds dumped buckets full of rain on Suzi and Drake as the helicopter veered off to the right. Suzi and Drake were on their left. Suzi sat down and stared at the helicopter’s rear.
“They’ll be back.”
Drake stared at her as though she was being transformed into something less than human. “You’ve got to be kidding! They’re going home; we’re on our own kid. ” Optimism is a great character trait, it’s a shame Drake didn’t have any!
Suzi didn’t say a word…out loud. Praying in the spirit she just held on to the sides for dear life as thunder cracked and lightening bolted in the hemisphere above her head. She had always connected rainy days with the Jesus’ return. They always made her expectant of the rapture. Now they would remind her of her granny’s death and passing on to be with the lord; that is if she made it through this.
The little motor boat puttered through the expanding river complete with obstacle courses. The floorboard was filling with water that sloshed in from the sides and came down from the skies. Suzi bailed water out as Drake attempted navigation. It was not a night fit for man, beast or fish. Up ahead something loomed out of the water. A cross. An enourmous wooden cross. The rapidly rising water was as tall as the four story Baptist church Suzi’s granny had called home.
"Look good, lady, that will probably be our grave marker." Drake spat out contemptibly as the boat bottom scraped across some submerged tool of destruction. A very unreassuring screech sounded over all the sounds of nature gone wild. Then the little motor breathed its last breath as phone wires strangled the blades. Drake decided now was as good as any time to give up. There was nowhere to go but down into the raging waters. "I've heard drowning is painless. At least I’ve never heard anyone complain before."
Complain. That's all Suzi had heard Drake do, but she wasn't giving up. She had too much confidence in past experiences to give up. She clung to her seat, trying to not be swept into the current, praying. She had no doubt that something wonderful could still happen.
“I have faith in God. He’ll take care of us.”
“Faith! In God! You have faith in some character that could let this happen? ” Drake seethed. “Give me a break. If he was going to save us he’d have done it by now. As it stands, we are in a metal boat, without a working motor, in an electric storm at night fall. We’re a advertisment for what not to do in a electrical shower. Our last chance for rescue flew over those hills. It’s getting chilly; we’re soaked to the bones. We’ll either drown or die of hypothermia. If God is going to save us, he’d better call in some favors. And soon.”
“Excuse me if I back away before lightening hits you.” Suzi said, sarcastically.
And then…Lightening struck. The enormous wood cross of Granny’s Baptist church was now firewood. On the heels of the loud sonic boom, the newly formed ocean became a blaze. The sky lit up like dawn. The pair was close enough to feel the heat that dried their clothes in nano seconds.
The helicopter’s whirly blades reappeared over the hill tops, adding to nature’s wind tunnel. The helicopter had been attracted to the explosion and resulting combustion and come to investigate one last time. The flames acted like spot lights placing Drake and Suzi on center stage. They had been found. Well Suzi had never been lost, but Drake....well, he was slightly speechless. Probably a first for him.
A ladder was tossed out of the helicopter, a man descended, tied Suzi to him, ascended, released Suzi, descended, tied Drake to him, and ascended one last time,(all this took more time and energy than expressed in this simple sentence.) Then a spark made good work of the little tired motor boat (it took no time at all for the boat to disintegrate when the gas tank reacted to the heat!)
All those in the helicopter gawked down at the magnificent burning cross, illuminating the area and dispelling darkness before they flew away to the school auditorium set up by the American Red Cross for first aide and nourishment.
Back in the Support Service’s office I hovered on the precipice of my cloud observing the retrieval of Suzi and Blake from the flooded city below. The woman standing next to me lowered the bow she had aimed downwards.
“That was a pretty good shot,” I praised. “And clever, I never would have thought of using the cross for a rescue beacon!” Lord knows, I thought, the cross has done its share of life saving over the centuries.
“No it wasn’t! I was aiming for that blasphemous jerk with my granddaughter!” Granny explained. “I have a feeling this won’t be the last time they see each other and she is too good for him!”
Great. I gently reached over and extricated the bow and arrows from Granny and returned them to their responsible owner. (The arrows were really lightening sticks, not available at a store near you). “It looks like we need to have a serious discussion about how things work here before you continue on through the pearly gates.”