There wasn't enough time. There just wasn't enough time. Lorelei rewound and replayed the events of the past 24 hours, over and over in her mind. She simply could not hold on to both of her children and cling to a tree at the same time. Not for the lack of trying, though. She just wasn't strong enough to fight the current. The water rushed in so quickly that she hardly had time to think. In fact, she didn't think. She just reacted. She grabbed the two most precious things in the world, her children. Adam, being the oldest, was the one she sacrificed to the raging torrent. He was ok. . .well, about as ok as a seven year old boy could be under such circumstances. He was a brave little boy. Braver than most men would have been. His lower lip quivered only once when he looked into the terrified eyes of his eighteen month old baby sister, Mia.
"Let go, Mama. I'll be ok. If you can't find me in the morning, Daddy will. And if he can't, then Nana and Pawpaw will come and get me."
Lorelei's heart dropped at the thought of Nana and Pawpaw coming to get her only son. You see, Nana And Pawpaw were in heaven.
"No, baby. I can't. I can't let you go!" Lorelei sobbed as the water continued to rise.
"You have to, Mama. I'll be ok. I promise." Adam gave a weak smile as the torrent plucked him from his mother's grasp.
Lorelei's sobs rocked her already weakened body. Her precious little boy was whisked away right before her eyes by thousands of gallons of water. A piece of her died at that very moment. But she still had one child left, her sweet baby girl, Mia. She mustered all of her strength and clung tenaciously to that tall southern pine.
* * *
"Howdy do, Mrs. Morrison? Good to see you're doin' alright. And what a sweet little baby girl you've got there. By the way, where is Mr. Morrison and your son, uh. . .Adam?"
Lorelei didn't hear a word of Maynard's ramblings.
"If only I had've, had some kind of warning. I could've gotten the children out, but there was no time. . ."
"Did ya say somethin' Mrs. Morrison?"
When Lorelei didn't respond, Maynard continued his rambling.
"Phew! That was some kinda rain we had last night, wasn't it? I bet it hasn't rained like that in a hundred years. Shucks, it rained so much I thought it was Noah's flood all over again."
Maynard was the only one laughing at his attempt to be humorous. His laughter was cut short when he saw his Aunt Ida Mae coming his way.
"Maynard James Griswold III, what on God's green earth do you think you're doin'?"
"Well, I . . .uh. . ."
"Well, I uh, nothing'! Will you leave this poor woman alone? Can't you see she's distraught and grievin?"
Maynard hadn't noticed Lorelei's grief. In fact, that was the first time he had truly looked her in the eyes. He felt really stupid and his Aunt's yelling wasn't helping any.
"Well, don't just stand there boy. Apologize to Mrs. Morrison for all your foolishness and carrying on."
Up until that moment, Lorelei hadn't said much of anything because she was so caught up in her own misery. But she had to come to Maynard's defense. Ida Mae Jenkins wasn't known for her tact, but the way she spoke to her nephew made Lorelei's skin crawl.
"He doesn't hafta apologize, Ida Mae. He was just makin' conversation." Lorelei shifted her attention from her crotchety neighbor to her baby girl, who was sound asleep on her lap.
"Well, now Lorelei. I know you're just tryin' to be nice, but don't defend that nephew of mine. He's always doin' dumb stuff like this. I've always said that boy was a sandwich short of a picnic. Ya know, I promised his mama, my baby sister Clara, that I'd take care of him when she died. God rest her soul. I done my best, but sometimes kids just don't turn out right."
Ida Mae expelled a long gust of air before continuing.
"Anyhow, have ya heard any news about your boy?
"Uh, no. Nothing."
"Well, what about Mr. Morrison?
"Not a word."
Ida Mae's countenance softened for the first time since the flood when she saw Lorelei's eyes fill to overflowing. She gathered Lorelei and Mia up into her meaty arms and pulled them to her ample bosom.
"Come on now, child. Don't give up hope. I'm sure everything'll work out just fine. So keep the faith, ya hear?"
Lorelei was only somewhat comforted by Ida Mae's words. She coddled them for a few moments longer before turning her attention back to Maynard.
"Well? What cha standin' there for? Come on over here and make yourself useful. I swear if your head wasn't attached to your body, you'd a lost it a long time ago!"
Maynard hung his head in shame as he hesitantly followed his know-it-all aunt. He paused for just a moment to give Lorelei a grateful smile.
Poor Maynard', Lorelei thought.
After The Rain
Three weeks had come and gone with no sign of Lorelei and the kids. Jacob Morrison was beside himself with grief. He didn't know what to do. He had only been gone for two days when the monsoon hit.
"Damn it! Why did I hafta take that stupid job! I shoulda been with my family. If I hada been there I coulda . . ." Jacob's words trailed off as tears flowed from his sad green eyes.
"Look son. You had no idea that the rains would come so soon or so fast. And who's to say you coulda done anything to protect em."
Old man Wilson was right of course, but Jacob felt no comfort from his words. Just as he was about to give up all hope, Jacob saw in the distance a wagon coming toward them. As it came closer he heard someone call is name.
"Can it be?" Jacob stood up a shielded his eyes from the sun. When he realized who it was, he ran so fast he could have been shot from a cannon.
Before the wagon could come to a full stop, Jacob Morrison had his wife in a death grip. The couple fell to the ground, crying hysterically. They hugged and kissed for what seemed like hours. They were soon joined by Adam and Mia.
* * *
"It fills this old heart with joy to see good folk get a fair break."
Old man Wilson wasn't the sentimental type, but he was overjoyed to see the Morrison family together again. This was his way of saying so. A stray tear slid from his eye, much to his chagrin. As he wiped it away he cleared his throat.
"That's enough of this mushy stuff. It's time to celebrate. Hit it Maynard!"
Maynard let out a yell and began playing his banjo. Everyone started dancing and clapping. Why, even Ida Mae couldn't help herself and before they knew what was happening, she and old man Wilson were tearing up the floor. Everyone howled when he sneaked a kiss from Ida Mae.
"Jeb Wilson. You devil you! Cut that out. There's impressionable young'uns in here."
She tried in vain to wiggle out of his grasp, but he just tightened is hold. Ida Mae squealed like a school girl as Jeb nuzzled her neck.
While the festivities continued, Jacob and Lorelei stole away to the barn. They found a nice, comfy pile of hay and sat there staring out at the night sky. Adam had seen them leave, so he grabbed Mia and followed them.
"Mama? Daddy?" They cautiously entered the dark barn.
"We're over her, Sweetie." Lorelei opened her arms to receive her children.
"Whatcha doin' out here?"
"Oh nothing'. Just watchin' the stars ."
Jacob patted Adam's rust colored hair. Adam found a spot between his parents and made himself comfortable while Mia sat on her daddys lap. Their hearts were filled with so much joy and gratitude that they could hardly stand it.
"Ya see that star? The one next to Orion's head? Well, actually, it's closer to his shoulder. But anyway. Do ya see it? Huh, Mama? Daddy?"
"Yes, we see it. What's so special about that star?" They waited for Adam to answer.
"That's Nana and Pawpaw."
"Whadaya mean, son? How can that star be Nana and Pawpaw?" Jacob rubbed his sons shoulder.
"Well, when the water took me outta Mama's arms, I was scared somethin' terrible! Then everything went black. All's I remember is wakin' up in a ditch, covered with mud. Then I became scared again and I started to cry. Then I heard Nana's voice. At first, I though I's dreamin' cause Nana's in heaven. Then I thought I must be dead. Anyway I looked around for Nana, but couldn't see her. I gave up lookin' after bout five minutes. When I did that star smiled at me."
Jacob wiped the tears from Lorelei's amber colored eyes and they hugged their son like there was no tomorrow.
"Mama. I can't breathe!"
"Sorry, baby." Lorelei kissed Adam on the head.
"Anyway, I knew it was Nana and Pawpaw's way of tellin' me that God was watchin' and that everything was gone be alright.
The happy sounds of music, laughter and joy could be heard from where they lay in that old barn, watching the night sky.