Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nightmares of Katrina 12

After the second sighting and after the haunting half Gregorian, half Mohammedan vocals in the distance, we turned down a street that went up.

The street in question rose from the partial flood mercifully and angled up to pass over another. I was nearly overjoyed to be out of the water, though I wasn't sure why I was so shaken by what clearly must have been my imagination. I clamped my lips closed in order to not speak at all. I felt sure that anything I said for a time would not convey any semblance of leadership or conduct becoming an officer. I fully expected that my speech would be strained, high pitched, rambling and nervous, if not blasphemous.

PFC Brown kept up an excited chatter that hid my coyness anyway. She was excited about the idea of passing very near a swimming alligator. I would have been too, since I had spent some time earlier in the month looking at any body of water I passed for alligators. I say I would have been if not for the fact that I was sure that whatever it was that I saw, it was definitely not an alligator.

As we crested the overpass we saw another party, the first we had seen in nearly an hour. There were four vehicles parked on the left side of the road, two hummers and two civilian pickup trucks. The pickups were both white with animal control markings on them, though I believe they were from different jurisdictions. Near the vehicles were about six military personnel and five civilians dressed in shirts and hats denoting their authority as animal control.

Brown mentioned them as soon as we crested the rise and the Chief looked up from her map, seemingly interested.

"Let's find out what they're doing," Brown asked.

"What the hell, might as well. We're not going to find that other warehouse," the Chief said, then she asked me if it were alright with me. I was fine with it.

This part of the road was still elevated above surface level and beyond the shoulder was a waist-high wall topped with a tubular steel guard rail. We pulled up facing the first hummer. We got out and walked toward the group who were all crowding near the guard rail. They were facing the houses that lay beyond. The top of the rail was even with the top of the doorways.

The closest person in the group was a young woman in a an animal cruelty polo shirt and a concerned look. I was walking a bit ahead of my compatriots and she turned to me as we walked up.

"He'll never be able to get that dog unless he climbs over there and gets it."

I asked her what she meant and she pointed as she explained. On the porch of the dilapidated house opposite the thickest part of the group, stood what I suppose was a dog. It only fit the most basic of the requirements to be categorized as a dog, and it was mostly on the strength of the previous comment about it being a dog, and the fact that it was clearly a domestic animal, but not a cat, that I decided it was a dog. It was sickly, mangy, jittery, wet, muddy, misshapen, and oddly bred. There was a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) calling to it and reaching out.

"We're collecting up animals and bringing them to shelters," she said.

PFC Brown moved ahead to get beside the LTC. The Chief and I followed.

"He won't come," someone said.

"It's getting late," another said.

"What'll happen to him if you don't get him?" Brown asked.

"He probably won't last another night out on his own."

It didn't need to be said that his chances were a good deal less optimistic since Hurricane Rita was bearing down on us.

The LTC He was a fairly large man and despite his steel gray hair was in very good condition, I guessed he was a runner. He, like everyone else in the group was dry and fairly clean, showing that they had not been in the flood waters that day. He looked at his watch and clearly made a reluctant decision. He handed some things I surmise were valuable and/or perishable to someone nearby, grabbed the rail and hoisted himself up on it. In a few moves he was over the rail and into a tree that had fallen between the house and the street. The attitude of the tree gave him an easy passage across the tiny flooded backyard and onto the porch.

The sight of his movement made the dog freeze, shiver violently and then dart into the open back door of the house just as the LTC set foot on the porch.

"Shit!" The LTC said. He darted into the house after the dog.

The house was what could be called a shotgun. It was designed with a long hall from the front of the house to the back, all on one floor. It was small enough, so the saying goes that a shotgun blast could sweep from one end to the other.

The Chief and I watched intently to see if we could tell where the dog went. Suddenly it darted out the front, onto that porch and lept to a neighboring house. The LTC was still searching the first house.

"I don't think he's ever going to catch that dog," Chief Mac said. I was inclined to agree with her.

I said, "Okay, let's go. Where's Private Brown?"

It was only then that we both noticed that she had followed the LTC across the tree and was on the porch about to enter the house.

I called to her to return.

"I got to help catch that dog," she said and advanced, disappearing into the house.

"I'll get her," I said, and as I said it I began to regret the need for it. The regret would only grow.

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