Little Girl in a Big Storm

Little Girl in a Big Storm

A Story by Carol Cashes
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I live in Biloxi, MS and was here during Katrina. This is potentially a true story.

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A Little Girl In A Big Storm

 

Las’ I saw of my mama wuz when she push’t me out tha upstairs winder.  Tha water had come down our street so fas’ and deep; it wuz right under tha winder and I wuz really scar’t  cuz I knew how deep it had ta be to reach that winder and I always get scar’t in deep water.  Tha wind wuz howlin’ so loud and tha water sounded like it wuz roarin’, like a lion or a bear, you know, sump’n  real big and mean.  Mama, she yelled at me ta jus’ let the water carry me where it will, that if I didn’ fight it, and watch’t where I wuz goin’, I’d  be aw’right and that she’d catch up with me in a little while.  Somethin’ ‘bout the way she said she loved me scare’t me even more; then she put this ole lifejacket on me and tied it real tight.  It stunk real bad; Daddy usta keep it in the bottom of his fishin’ boat and it smell’t  like ole dead fish and beer. 

 

Right ‘afore she let me go, she kiss’t my hands and shoved me away from tha house.  I started cryin’; I never been so scare’t in all my life.  The wind and rain wuz so loud, I couldn’t even hear myself cryin’ and screamin’ for Mama over and over.  That water wuz movin’ so fas’ and turnin’ me ‘round and ‘round till I could hardly tell which direction I wuz goin’.  I could feel my legs and arms scrapin’ stuff I couldn’t see under tha water and I tried to pull my knees up but I couldn’t do nothin’ but wrap my arms ‘roun’ Daddy’s ole lifesaver and hug it as tight as I could to my ches’.   I felt like a tiny ant in the Mississippi and I wuz jus’ hopin’ that I would get close to somethin’ I could grab or hold on to.  I couldn’ cry and keep a lookout for some kinda anchor so I jus’ tried to concentrate on where I wuz goin’ and hopin’ I didn’ end up too far from home since the phone had quit workin’ sometime ‘afore the water hit and Mama had tol’ me more than once that she would blister my butt good if she ever caught me hitchhikin’.  At the thought of Mama, I could feel my chest tighten up like it does when I’m workin’ up a good cry,  but I knew I needed ta pay ‘tention like Mama tol’ me, so I tried ta swallow it  down but it jus’ seem ta get stuck in my throat and I felt like I wuz gonna choke on it.   

 

It seemed like a long time ‘afore everythin’ slowed down enough for me to really see where I wuz goin’.   I thought I saw the top of  Beau Jon and Martin’s house, they lived a coupla blocks over and it look’t like somebody wuz on the roof but the water wuz still movin’ fas’ enough ta keep me spinnin’ ‘round,  so I didn’ see who it wuz.  Now I wuz’nt cryin’ for Mama no more; I wuz jus’ cryin’.  I wuz ‘memberin’ when I watch’t The Wizard of Oz las’ Sunday, and Dorothy sees that ole witch ride by outside the winder.  I jus’ knew that if I saw that ole witch or anythin’ like her, I wuz gonna die, and I didn’t want to die.  No sireee!   Las’ Sund’y, Brother Jake wuz goin’ on about hellfire and damnation and stuff like that and how bad people went to this lake that wuz on fire.  I started ‘memberin’ my sins and I knew that I’d pro’ bly be goin’ for a swim in that ole lake jus’ for the ones I could ‘member.

 

I wuz startin’ to get tired and tried to close my eyes, but not seein’ what wuz comin’ wuz worse than seein’ it, so  I jus’ started prayin’ like I never did in Sund’y School.  Pleeze, God, don’ let me die, I swear I’ll be good to Jody even when he tears the head offa my Barbie doll ‘cuz he’s  my brother and I’m ‘posed to love and forgive him no matter what he does and I won’ sass my Mama no more, and I’ll try as hard as I can to love my Daddy, even tho everyone says he ain’t worth a plug nickel and he kill’t my lit’l orange kitten, Dreamsicle,  when he step’t on it one night when he wuz drunk.   I wuz jus’ promisin’ God everythin’ I could think of that him and the Baby Jesus would want me to do when all of a sudd’n, I felt a tug behin’ me and I could feel that I wuz bein’ pull’t agin’st the way the water wuz movin’.  I couldn’ see behind me and I jus’ knew it wuz a big ole alligator or a shark or sump’n and I thought I might fain’ right then for sure, but it wuz only a few minutes an’ I felt these big ole warm hands wrap ‘roun’ me and pull me up outta the water.  My heart wuz beatin’ to burst and I jus’ closed my eyes real tight so’s I couldn’ see who wuz gonna kill me or rape me or any of those horrible things that my cousin Jada tol’ me happens to girls who are out all alone and can’t get away when really bad men catch ‘em and tie ‘em up.

 

I musta fainted or at least pass’d out cuz when I opened my eyes, I wuz wrap’t up in a ole blanket and I wuz in a wheelchair layin’ in this ole lady’s lap.  I could tell it wuz inside and dark and I thought I could hear her singin’ real sof’-like under her breath.  Then I thought she might be crazy like this movie I watch’t  one time with my cousin Jada ‘bout these people who lock’t up this ole lady in tha attic and fed her scraps and bones and stuff and she wuz bad-crazy.  I tried to wiggle outta her lap, but she ssshhh’ed me and held me right tight agin’st her and said that I wuz aw’right, now,  and ta jus’ be still and rest since it look’t like I’d had a pretty rough ride in that ole water and I’d need my strength later.  Sump’n ‘bout her voice kinda ‘minded me of my ole Grannie Lou; she’s dead now, but she usta sing to me at night when I’d sleep over sometimes and she would rock me ta sleep in her big ole rockin’ chair that wuz older than her.

 

I could tell by her hands with her ole crook’id fingers that it wuzn’t her that pulled me outta the water and I look’t ‘round to see where I wuz and who wuz there with us.  I could see this guy leanin’ out this little bitty winder and I couldn’ tell if he wuz  pullin’ up somebody else or jus’ hangin’ out the window like my Mama and my cousin Jada would do when it comes a good loud thunderstorm.  After a few minutes, he pull’t his head in and turned ‘round to look at us.  His face wuz red and his hair was scraggly and he didn’ have no shirt on, jus’ a ole pair of  jeans and some work boots, but he smiled at me and tol’ me that it wuz sure a lucky thing that he wuz lookin’ out when I came sailin’ by.  That’s what he said, that I wuz “sailin” by - like some ship in them ole pirate movies that Jody likes.

 

He came over and squatted down in front of me and the ole lady an’ tol’ me that his name was Willy Terrell and that the ole lady holdin’ me wuz his mama, Delilah Terrell, though ever’body called her Miz D. and that I should too.  I felt like it wuz my turn to say sump’n, but I couldn’ seem ta get my mouth workin’, which sure woulda surprised a lot of people.  He musta understood, though, cuz he jus’ smiled at me, and tol’ me to res’, there wuz plenty o’ time for inter’ductions later.  He said that when the storm had pass’d, he’d take me home, wher’ever that wuz, and for me not ta worry no more.  I woulda thought that I cried all my tears out, but I felt my eyes stingin’ and I didn’ want them to see me cry like Kenny, Jada’s little boy, who wuz two and cried all the time, so I jus’ clos’d my eyes real tight and I didn’ even know it when I went ta sleep. 

 

I think my dreams wuz really jus’ ‘memberin’, like my brain wuz tryin’ to sort it all out so’s I could maybe make some sense of it later.  Daddy had left early yesterday mornin’ ta hep my uncles tie up they shrimp boats in tha back bay, and me ‘n Mama both knew that he’d be beer-drunk by tha afternoon and would stay wid them on one of the boats.  Jody help’d me put all the lawn chairs and Kenny’s outside toys in his room, and all the plants in the front room ‘afore he took off after Daddy.  Mama was quiet, which wuz weird ‘cause storms usually made her eyes sparkly and her and Jada would be kinda giggly-jumpy.  My Granny Lou had tol’ me that all tha women in our fam’ly had this ‘finity for storms and thunder and lightnin’.  ‘Cept for me, I always hated ‘em and wanted ta be under tha covers or hidden somewhere’s durin’ tha really loud ones.  Anyways,  I heard Mama and Miz Joan from nex’ door talkin’ ‘bout maybe we should evacu-wate, or somethin’, but Mama said no, that tha ole house had stood this long, one more storm wuz jus’ one more storm.  ‘Round noon-time, the neighborhood wuz real quiet, folks that didn’t usually take off had loaded up they cars with they kids and dogs and cats and took off for tha Interstate headed north.  I think that wuz when I started ta have this niggly-wiggly feelin’ in my stomach, but Mama kept me pretty busy so that I hardly had time to notice it at first. 

 

It didn’ start ta rain ‘til later that night and you could really hear tha wind a’blowin’ through tha trees and tha roof gutters.  Mama let me sleep on tha couch while she sat up and play’d solitaire until the power wen’ out.  When I woke up it wuz dark like it wuz really early in the mornin’ but Mama said it was ‘bout ten and tha storm wuz jus’ startin’ to blow in.  She fix’d me some peanut butter and crackers when we saw that water wuz comin’ in tha front door.  We had jus’ push’d towels up agin’st tha bottom of tha door when we heard this really loud roarin’ sound.  Mama look’d out tha winder and I never seen my Mama look scared, but she did then and started yellin’ at me ta grab stuff and run upstairs ta her room.  I could see water risin’ up pas’ the winder sill and had jus’ grabbed a pillow and some blankets when tha front door burst in and water came gushin’ in like a waterfall that I seen in a movie once.  It knocked me off my feet, but Mama grabbed my arm real tight and pulled me up the stairs. 

 

She tol’ me ta get up on the bed and stay there, that she had to go back downstairs to get some stuff and she’d be right back.  I wouldn’ even look out the winder while she wuz gone, jus’ stared at tha picture of the mountains and some deer facin’ her bed.  Soon I heard her runnin’ back up tha stairs and she wuz carryin’ that ole life jacket and a plastic bag filled to burstin’.  I never did see what wuz in the bag, she jus’ grabbed me up and started tellin’ me that she loved me and ta jus’ let the water carry me…

 

When I woke up this time, it wuz some quieter, but still raining.  Willy musta picked me up and carried me to tha little cot that I wuz layin’ on.  Miz D had rolled her chair over ta the winder and there wuz no sign of Willy.  I got up and walked over ta the winder.  Miz D looked up at me and her pale blue eyes were filled with tears, only they didn’t roll down her cheeks - jus’ stayed right on her eyes makin’ ‘em look like they wuz underwater.  She said that Willy had gone to get somebody to help us out tha house or a ta get a boat but he’d been gone for a long time and she wuz getting’ worried.  She said he’d jus’ jumped in the water and started swimmin’.  This wuz twice in one day that I seen a grown up bein’ scared like me and it made me feel strange, like the rules of tha world got changed and I weren’t ready.     


© 2017 Carol Cashes



Author's Note

Carol Cashes
This is written in the southern dialect that I spoke as a child. Tried to catch 'em all, but if you see one I missed, let me know...

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Reviews

This story is hitting on all cylinders. The dialect is well-crafted to be both southern & childlike, used generously, but not to the point where it impedes the brisk pacing of your story. Some of it sounds rambling like a child would be, with well-placed tangents that paint the setting & situation, but again not going on too long as to distract from the forward movement of the telling. I very much enjoyed the sparkling word choices & idioms.

Posted 2 Months Ago


This story is incredible. The pacing really makes it feel like you're looking through the eyes of a child. The serious(ness?) of the writing doesn't take away from the narrator's naivety. The last line wraps it all up brilliantly, leaving behind a lingering question of "how many people will survive?"
Somehow, you were able to show the innocence in a young character without making her seem stupid, quite like Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird.
All of the characters seem so alive and real, even when just referencing what sort of movie they liked.
Thank you for writing this.

Posted 2 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

2 Months Ago

I'm so glad you enjoyed this. To reference such a great work as To Kill a Mockingbird in a review o.. read more
Oh my. Oh my. Carol, from line 1 this is very very good. Fast-paced and brilliantly personalised. The diction and eyes/mind of a child are spot on. I also really like all the family references - my guess is you had a little family tree sketched out when you did this! These references deepen our sense in the child's trust and the limits of the world and its values.

Yeah. Oh my!

Stunning.

BRs Nigel

Posted 2 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

2 Months Ago

Wow, many thanks, Nigel for that review and I'm glad that you liked it. I was afraid the dialect mi.. read more
' I tried to wiggle outta her lap, but she ssshhh’ed me and held me right tight agin’st her and said that I wuz aw’right, now, and ta jus’ be still and rest since it look’t like I’d had a pretty rough ride in that ole water and I’d need my strength later. Sump’n ‘bout her voice kinda ‘minded me of my ole Grannie Lou; '


Such a coincidence from this UK reader.. watched final part of a series by a comedian/raconteur who's resident here. Been driving through parts of America following musical stylesAND finally getting to the point.. sorry..., arrived in the South.. his last call, NEW ORLEANS!!, his actual birthplace. So i got to hear the dialect your wonderful post is written in.

Personally I found this pretty easy to read... because i read it aloud.. was like listening to a radio play..The voices were real and not at all discombobulating! You've done a great job in adding the language to your story. As to the story, how very upsetting, how full of atmosphere, reality, tears and strained smiles.. amazing characters.. and all. Really reached my tears and a few small smiles too.

Will come back, read again.plus recommend. You certainly know how to lure and keep a reader. Great, great words.

Posted 2 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

2 Months Ago

Lordy! What a review! I'm glad that you could read this easily, some are struggling, but then not .. read more
emmajoy

2 Months Ago

And so it should be... anyone who turns away, doesn't have the intelligence or imagination to see th.. read more
The southern twang and the way in which this story was written really made it feel like it was seen from a child's point of view. The storm really felt powerful and frightening.

Posted 2 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

2 Months Ago

Thank you, Clifford for reading this. The dialect is an issue with some readers and I get their fru.. read more
Good attempt at getting the dialect, but I think it's a bit over the top, almost a caricature. It's getting in the way of the story. You might want to dial it back about half.

Posted 2 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

2 Months Ago

I appreciate your review, however, as a child who spoke that dialect, I can assure you it is written.. read more
Love this your choice of language rang true I could almost feel I was there great work

Posted 2 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

2 Months Ago

Thank you, Juliespenhere. I enjoyed writing this and only the typing/writing of the dialect was har.. read more
A wonderful piece of writing on two counts.. First the dialect and childlike dialogue set the scene so realistically as observed through a child's eyes, Then the fear, action and pathos descriptions brought the true horror of the situation that had occurred on so many occasions throughout so many countries. Even the most sophisticated human resources are puny in the face of nature.

Posted 2 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

2 Months Ago

I so appreciate your reading this. Yes, I am still a child in many ways - and I hope I never lose h.. read more
I enjoyed reading this childhood story. You drew the reader in very well. We can be pretty helpless in the face of nature. Let's hope global warming does not make it worse.

Posted 2 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

2 Months Ago

Lordy! I hope the same. This coastline could not endure another devastating storm like Katrina. I.. read more
OMG what happened to the Mama and Willy? Frightening, tragic, authentic, story about possible Katrina victims and what they went through. The dialect took getting used to for me, but added so much to the realism of the story. The little girl was so brave and I could visualize her struggle step by step.Maybe I missed her name & age? Daddy, The Terrels, Jody, Jada, Kenny,Granny Lou- all so memorable. Great action and scene description- all rushing like the water. I felt this story! Excellent.

Posted 2 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

2 Months Ago

Annette, I will finish this story soon. I don't know her name yet, or exactly how old, somewhere ar.. read more

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Added on June 10, 2017
Last Updated on July 15, 2017
Tags: fiction, southern dialect

Author

Carol Cashes
Carol Cashes

Biloxi, MS



About
I'm very cynical, jaded, just this side of bitter and the only reason I haven't crossed that line is a good man loves me. I am extremely empathetic, but seldom sympathetic. I can be a ferociously lo.. more..

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