On the day after Irene assaulted Vermont, the word on the road was that we could be without power for up to a month. When we saw what the flood did to Route 9 (the main highway across our state) we didn’t doubt it.
My husband and I began talking about leaving. “Maybe we should head down to family in New Jersey,” he said.
But of course, we had jobs; and the kids had school–maybe; and we wanted to be in town to help when there was someway to get to the others who had been harder hit than us.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we were stuck like everyone else. No one was heading out of town on these badly damaged back roads, let alone a Honda Civic, when even the National Guard couldn’t even make it down our road with tires bigger than me.
We resigned ourselves to living the way we know how to live without power–candles, and jugs of water, and simple meals; only we couldn’t use the front porch as refrigerator as we did after a winter storm.
Once again we envied those with generators, and talked about getting one ourselves, but I was always wary about the dangers, and it wasn’t the loss of the refrigerator or the lights that hit me the hardest–but the absence of flushing toilets.
I know it’s not very Vermont of me, and I did always want an outhouse with a moon-shaped cut out on the door, but instead I sent my husband down our driveway and across the road to the pond, to fill up a bucket with water, and pour it carefully into the tank of the downstairs toilet so that we might get at least one flush a day.
Thus, the next morning, after my husband left for work, it didn’t take me long to figure out what happened when my young son called up from the bathroom to say,
“Mom, there’s a fish in the toilet!”
But it was the last straw.
“What do you mean?” I called down the stairs, just as desperately.
“A fish, Mom. There’s an actual fish in the toilet,” he replied.
“Is it alive?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
“How big is it?”
And we continued this separate floor conversation like this until I told him, “Just scoop it out, and take it back to the pond.”
“Can’t I just flush it, Mom?” he asked.
“No!” I replied, “It will die. Just scoop it out and take it back to the pond.”
I know it was a big request for a tiny thing that he’d string on a fishing pole on any other day, but after seeing the devastation to my town, I couldn’t bear another loss, however small.
“I can’t” he replied quietly.
“Why? Just get a cup or something.”
“I can’t… because I’ve already used the bathroom.”
“Pee?” I asked.
“Nope,” he replied.
And so I resigned myself to sending this poor little unsuspecting fish who survived the Great Flood of 2011 to its end in our septic tank.
“Go ahead and flush,” I called to my son, as one who selfishly demanded water for her toilet.
Kelly Salasin, Marlboro, Vermont, 2011