The town of Wycot was a small town in the middle of a lot of nothing but the storm came for it like it owed it money. They’d look at maps later, once people knew what happened, and they’d scratch their heads because it was like the storm was made specifically for Wycot, like it came down, sniffed out the hundred or so people and ran towards it like a bloodhound on a scent. But maybe that doesn’t work, I bet bloodhounds meander. The storm was big and quick and loud and mean.
Before it came it was a pretty nice day, nothing out of the ordinary was going on there. It was summer, the cicadas were screaming and the air was heavy and if you stood outside for much longer than a few seconds you’d feel your tshirt start to stick to your back and if you were inside well you were just fucked because no one had much in the way of AC and the fans just moved the air around like an oven. Your best bet on a day like that would be to take your mind off it and find something to pay attention to in the shade.
Moses and Andy and Masie and Mattie were doing that. Moses was swinging an old tennis racket at the mattress the 4 of them always met at on summer days that needed filling. The racket would kick dust and dead spiders up and all that would stick to their shins and their arms and their sweaty faces. Andy was laying on his back in the grass under a tree that died a long time ago but refused to give up standing. He had his forearm draped over his eyes and he was whistling, he always whistled. Masie and Mattie were looking through each other’s hair like a couple of monkeys at the zoo. Masie was Andy’s sister and Mattie was technically the son of Moses’s dad’s sister. Only Mattie had been wearing girl clothes for a few years now and Wycot was too small and too hot for people to care much about that more than a double glance every now and then. Plus Moses’s dad’s sister wasn’t really his sister, she got took in by Moses’s grandma when they were young and raised like family but she was from another family that fell apart, is what Moses was told, so Mattie wasn’t even a cousin but in any case they all moved as a unit. I am getting off track.
A little background of Wycot. It’s farm country, it’s surrounded by the plains and around those plains are forests that the state technically owns maybe but maybe not because of some mining or drilling leases. When all of that started, many years ago, Wycot thought they’d get some money or jobs out of it but all that happened was the water changed taste and a road got put in, only it got put in too far to be of use to Wycot and then the mine or the drill or the whatever they were doing ended up stopping so no one comes by anyway. The people who would look at the maps, after the storm, people had never been to Wycot I mean, they would use all these details as part of the reason the state didn’t know the storm happened or didn’t know the storm happened to who it happened to. Some people thought Wycot wasn’t even technically counted in state censuses but that ended up being untrue.
The day of the storm was normal, as mentioned. We can stay with the kids for now, the four kids at the mattress. They were talking, not about much, about family and friends and bugs and sweat; and it only took a few minutes to drop almost 30 degrees, and the cold wasn’t the worst part, it had been so hot, but the wind and the darkness were the parts that scared people worst of all. It felt like the world was ending to them. To the residents but especially to Andy and Mattie and Masie and Moses. Moses stopped hitting the mattress when it dimmed at first and then, by the time it got it’s darkest, the four of them, Moses still with the racket, ran to the small leaning shack that smelled like cat piss and it didn’t offer much of anything but they stood all four, looking out through the slits in the roof and the walls and they were screaming over the wind and Andy was the only one crying the rest were just wide eyed and that’s when it got too bad and too loud and too angry for the town of Wycot.
It took three hours for the sun to be out as much as it was before the storm. Before The Storm is how people would say it. The sun being back out meant people who were underground could come back up, if they had made it to a basement, if they had had one, and some did. It wasn’t a big town so there wasn’t a lot to take down but everything take-down-able was vital to the town. It worked both ways in that way I guess. The market had been taken down and it’s aisles had been emptied. Things were thrown into fields and through windows and scattered farther than anyone would have guessed they could be. The Morris’s house was on the windward side and the first to get hit by the storm wall. It was completely taken apart. The Morris house normally had three people living in it, a mom named Peggy, a dad named Mr. M (everyone in town used that name, no matter how they knew him), and a daughter who was born with a bent leg named Callie. All three of them were gone and for a long time they thought maybe they had just not been home, because their bodies weren’t found but then the Davis family found a leg on their roof that had to have been Callie’s on account of the brace.
The Post Office was half gone. The Post Office was what they called the bar in town. It was on the same block as the Morris house but just the way the wind decided to go, only half of the post office was gone. The town used the bottom half for a long time just because it was the only place with tables (nailed down), but the top half of a building being gone doesn’t make a good town hall.
I guess that is the important part. I’m sorry for meandering now, like the hounds do, but I am realizing that jumping around and zooming in and zooming out isn’t how the Wycot story should be told. I’m going to let one of the town members tell it. This is Moses, many many years after the storm, telling his son, who’s laying in bed, trying to keep his eyes open, about where he’s from. He’s never really given a good answer to the question before, not even to his wife, who met many moved after the storm. But here, in a quiet room four states over, with a nodding off son who looks a lot like the little boy with the racket, he thought he could explain it well enough:
Mom told you I’m from Hubbard, which is true, but I grew up in an even smaller town, a few counties away from Hubbard. To get there from Hubbard, you’d have to take two very long bus rides down roads that are really bumpy, and the buses, or the ones I took, had too many people and a lot of us had to stand up the whole way, but we didn’t mind.
It was a fun town but it didn’t have much. When I needed a bath really bad my dad would walk me across the street to a girl’s house named Angie. I hated Angie and her mom was meaner than a wasp but she liked my dad and he would ask her if I could use their big bathtub because ours was broken, it was always broken. I had a few friends and my family of course but we were such a small town that everyone was family even the ones you didn’t like.
But one day everyone had to leave. Something happened to us and it was very quick but also it took a long time to figure it out. We were cleaning up for days and days and everyone slept somewhere new each night when we were cleaning and lots of us were looking for people that were really hard to find and after everything, after the cleaning and the scary nights, people came in from out of town and told us to go. Most of us did, some of my friends did and I did and my dad did. But we ended up having to leave a lot of us behind too.
Moses’s son is asleep and Moses will finish his drink and head to bed soon too but for a little while he’ll listen to the wind outside his son’s window brushing past the trees and he’ll remember sitting on the bus, looking down at his hands that were sore and chapped and dirty from the rubble and the trash and the town that he had been sifting through and picking up and putting down, and he’d remember how quiet the bus ride was, how people didn’t have anything to say by then.