I suppose as earthquakes go ours was a very minor earthquake. I believe it only rated a third class mention tagged on to the end of the local news. It happened more or less as day was breaking and the epicentre was on the far side of town. We later heard about the damage in other areas but for that morning we were somewhat isolated.
Perhaps I should explain. We lived on a small-holding just outside of town. The house was built on the side of the hill at no great distance from the main road. The garage was part of the main house structure, closest to where the hillside had been dug away for the building, and half the house was built on this solid foundation. The bedroom half of the house was supported by pillars with unimpeded views of the valley and underneath a much used and sheltered area for entertaining.
I was on my way to the kitchen for a cup of coffee when the house began to rattle and roll and I grabbed the kitchen doorway for support. While I watched, the kitchen floor opened up and the stove disappeared with a tearing sound and flashing of electrical sparks.
I felt the cold wind on my back and turned to see the bedroom wing disappear down the hillside. Irrationally all I thought was “Sister Suzie’s still in bed!”
Everything stopped shaking and it was quiet with the odd exception when something relocated itself. The parents were away, visiting an older sister, newly maternal.
I stepped into the kitchen, felt the floor give and clutched at the door. I don’t know anything about earthquakes and didn’t know what to expect of this one. Took another step, with the same result but the floor held. It seemed strange to be walking uphill with every step no matter which way I went, but this was the effect. I kept clear of the hole where the stove had been.
Then I thought again of Sister Suzie. Finding my way out of the house I set off downhill, eyes searching the fallen furniture and rubble. It occurred to me that Suzie always fell on her feet, an unworthy thought that I brushed aside before I saw her bed. Her bed had fallen on its feet, for sure, and there was Suzie sitting upright with the blankets clutched beneath her chin, surveying the scene with big round eyes.
“Oh, there you are, Horrie,” her eyes had found me. (At least this time I wasn’t Horrible Horrie – something to be said for earthquakes!) “Can you see my wardrobe anywhere? I need something to wear.”
Typical Suzie. No thought for anything but her clothing. But then it occurred to me that on these warm nights Suzie went very lightly clad to bed. I was glad I had dressed before this all happened because I tend to wear less than Suzie when I go to bed! After a brief search I carried a selection of garments to the bed, wondering how Suzie would cope with al fresco dressing. I needn’t have worried. She disappeared beneath the blankets and after a series of wriggles and heaves that almost set the bed off again she emerged fully clothed.
Together we surveyed the damage before returning to the house for refreshments while deciding what to do. We hadn’t realised there would be no electricity, no water, no telephone. But the fridge was still there and we found bread and milk before deciding that the best we could do was to collect what we could and bring it into the garage. So that was how we spent that long day, partners for once, before it was dusk and no more could be done.
The barbeque beneath the bedroom wing had survived the calamity. We used the meat from the fridge and even heated some milk for coffee on the barbeque. We were ravenous by then as we’d worked through the day without thinking of food. Munching companionably we wondered what the parents would say when they returned from their visit to our newly maternal sister.
I was gloomy. “Bet Dad says it’s all my fault.”
“Wouldn’t blame him,” was Suzie’s unfeeling rejoinder. “But, Horace, what will we do about Mum’s orchid?”
The descending stove had caught the edge of the pot. There was nothing we could do.
Wiping my plate with kitchen paper I yawned hugely. “I don’t think I have ever been so bone weary in my life!”
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