A Tale of the Diluvian South

A folk tale from a flooded world about finding your way.

Way back, even before the waters came pourin down, Old Man Eli was feelin mighty angry. He gone and had Mami make them people, all the people down in the world. But they wasn't doin they job like he liked. They was making all kinds a noise and fuss and it made Old Man mighty angry. So what Eli do he start cryin. He don't want to bother no more. Big ol tears come rollin down his face, come rollin off his beard, come hammerin down onto de ground. Old Man Eli he gone wash them away with his tears.

Now down there with the people there was a girl name of Alice. She ain't nothing special, just a girl with a lotta sense. She work at a paper, writin down words other people done said and other people gone read, and she loved that job.

But then Eli's tears come, and the water came risin up from the ground and washin down from the sky. Whole town done start to panic, and back in those days towns was big, like you ain't even know half the people livin there. That's how big old towns was.

Alice she take one thing she want to keep, and that was her type-writer. "I gone be a writer one day, and they gone have people writin down what I done said and other people gone read it," she say.

She carry that type-writer even when the water comin in so deep it get the hem of her Sunday dress wet. She carry that type-writer even when the water comin in so deep it get her fine belt wet. She carry that type-writer even when the water comin in so deep it get her white gloves wet.

Then the water over her head, and she got to swim. Now she got a lotta sense but she ain't got all the sense. She swim with one arm and she try to hold onto that type-writer with the other. She don want to give it up, but it keep her down at the bottom, and Old Man Eli he ain't done cryin yet.

Her type-writer it done slipped out and fall down in the water, and she ain't gone breathe much longer. Her heart dreadful heavy but she start swimmin up.

Up past the old general store. Up past the office she work at though she ain't gone work there no more. Up past the old church windows. Up till she could see the sun comin in up above. Up and up and breakin the surface and then nothin. They was the tops of trees and roofs and a barn or two, but they ain't a sound, ain't a motion, ain't a cloud in the sky. Old Man Eli he done cried it all away.

Ploop, pole goes into water. Trickle trickle, water rush around when the pole push. Alice she look around, she see someone done made a raft of driftwood and they headin down the river what use to be her town.

"Hello!" she call. "You got space for one more?" she ask. Gal on the raft nod and she swim over and climb on aboard.

Ploop. Trickle trickle.

She take a good look round the raft now that she on it. Ain't nothin there but a banjo and a pole for pushin the raft and the gal holdin it. Now she ain't seen none like her before but she ain't never seen no floods like this before neither. Some folk say they wasn't no animal folk till the waters came, but who knows? She tall, got spotted fur, big ol muzzle and big ol thick braids hangin down all over, can't even see her eyes they so thick. The hyena got nothin on but overalls and her fur it look soaked too, always look wet no matter how long she stay outta the water.

"Ain't many can make it out of that. You got some will girl," she say. When she speak Alice can feel how wise she be, down from her heels up into her belly that wisdom runnin through her.

Ploop. Trickle trickle.

"Suppose so, but I ain't got my typewriter no more," Alice say.

"What's your name, girl? Mine's Enki," the hyena say.

"Alice, please to meet you miss," Alice say.

Ploop. Trickle trickle.

"Ain't never seen no one such a fool as I seen Alice," Enki say.

Alice embarassed, her face go gettin red and her ears mighty warm, but ain't just that. Her ears go and shrink till they nothin but little holes, cause she know deep down she been a fool.

"I need that type-writer. If I ain't got it, ain't no way for me to keep writin down words other people done said and other people gone read," Alice say.

Enki she shake herself some and water come flyin off. Alice close her eyes cause she don't wanta get wetter then she be. Water go flyin onto her skin and where it hit big ol green scales start growin out, all thick an color of swamp water they was, and spreadin all over her back an arms an legs.

"If you need it why don't you got it right now? Less you just wanted it." Enki ask.

Ploop. Trickle trickle.

Trees they ain't lookin the same now, they gettin real big an thick up above the water. Plants was soakin up Eli's tears like ain't gone be another rain for a hundred years. Spanish moss hang down right thick from those branches. Somethin growin right thick on the banks of that new river.

"But I been workin my job for years," Alice say. "Can't go givin that all up now."

Enki say, "Maybe the world tryin to tell you something, girl. It's movin on, an why ain't you?"

Alice lift herself up inna big sigh an let it all out. Her belly go an pop out, with them big white scales white as milk. She gettin right thick all over an the scales ain't stoppin no matter how she itch.

Ploop. Trickle trickle.

"I liked the way things was," Alice say. Her voice get all misty and sad. Now her face startin to go, longer and longer, big snout, big fangs, but she too sad to care.

"Ain't gonna make it so," Enki say.

Big fat tail goin whump, right down on the raft. Alice sit different now, big gator tail curled round her side, leanin on her big hip.

"Why'd Old Man gotta go an cry it all away?" Alice ask.

"Cause it his will, and no sense defyin that. Let'im cry," Enki say.

Ploop. Trickle trickle.

"Ain't got a thing in the world I can do," Alice say. She all scales now, big and fat like a happy ol gator, but ain't she happy yet. She go and stick her big claws in the water and splash a bit, feelin water among her toes and likin it.

Ploop. Clunk.

Enki she not pushin the raft no more, she done put the pole down and she holdin out the banjo.

"Know any songs?"

Alice she shake her head but take the banjo anyway. She got claws now and they good for pickin strings. First she make a twang or two, she try to bring back an old hymn. But it don't feel right.

Alice she try again. Feelin the river in her toes she make each note wet with Old Man Eli's tears. Feelin the raft movin she make it flow with the gentle current of the water. Her heart ache but now it be singin out and it feel right.

Dirt build up on the banks now. Gonna be swamps soon, gonna land her raft an start again. Enki tell her she gone be fruitful and multiply. Her big belly just a bit bigger now, growin with life.

Enki done vanish when Alice look again. Ain't no sign of no hyena ever been there. River gone move her now, ain't no need to push. When she see somewhere to land she gone stop and lay her eggs.

For now Alice just float, where there nothin but water and trees and the whole world listenin to her song.

 

Old Man Eli, what he say

Gonna flood this land

Wise ol Enki, come my way

Let me take your hand

River, runnin

On down to don't-know-where

New home, comin

Gonna take me there

July 2, 2015