Friday, June 21, 2013

Chapter 57 - Catalyst Gustav


Owen’s family continued to watch the Weather Channel. Owen remembered his father’s last phone call just before midnight on Thursday, “Gott dammit Owen! If, by tomorrow at 5AM… Eastern Time! you haven’t purchased tickets and sent your mother an email with your arrival time here at home, then, so help me God! I’ll send Ryan and Simon down here to haul you back in chains!”


 


Gustav was now officially the first serious hurricane threat to New Orleans since Katrina and the whole area was on edge. He called Nola at work early Friday to tell her that he had purchased tickets to fly out on the last flight of August 29th.  He said he had tickets on hold for her and Jamie and James.  He insisted that she come with him.  He had heard the shock in her voice. She told him that he had to call back the airlines immediately and cancel their tickets. She was worried about the expense.


“Please Owen I can’t afford to fly my family to Pennsylvania.”


“Woman, I will pay. Don’t worry about the cost.”


“No, Owen. No. Please cancel the tickets while you can. We can’t go. We have pets.  You know we can go. We talked about this last night.”  She then insisted that going to Pennsylvania was absolutely the right thing for him to do.  He knew going back to Pennsylvania would stop his mother from literally worrying herself sick.


 


It was noon Friday August 29th.  Nola had left work. The refinery's hurricane plans were wrapping up. The backup server and all the data had been picked up by the safety department and it was someone else’s responsibility to make sure it ended up where ever management was going.  Baton Rouge probably.  Hattiesburg or Jackson maybe.  The plan was tried and tested and had been an amazing part of the Hurricane Katrina recovery story. The last 3 years had only improved it. All her people were off preparing their houses and lives for the coming hurricane.  She could have stayed at work. There was non-hurricane work to do. But like most people her mind was elsewhere and she had decided her body needed to be elsewhere too. Anyone who had been through Katrina was in cool, practical shutdown mode.  They looked around at what they had and whatever state of recovery their personal lives were in and decided what to take and what to leave behind. For many the decision was easy. There was much less left to take. And they knew what was important: irreplaceable photos, family treasures that would mean nothing to anyone else, the means to recover: tools, trucks, boats, evidence of the state of their repairs or proof of what they had for the insurance company and their loved ones, including pets. This time it wasn’t a question of if people were leaving. This time it was a question of when they were leaving. The most important thing was to be able to know your people were safe and how to reconnect.  After Katrina cellphones and local 504 numbers had been hit and miss. Part of it was the infrastructure, loss of towers or power. Part of it was load. There were just too many people trying to use what was left of a system.  Folks quickly learned that when you couldn’t make a phone call, you could text and now the New Orleans area no longer had a generation gap between texters and non-texters. Texting was like a flashlight in your survival kit and everybody knows how to use a flashlight. Many people had a backup to texting. They knew that when local numbers hadn’t worked from their 504 phones that dialing long distance would get you a connection. So now many had an out of state contact set up to act as command center with a phone tree list of people to contact.  The internet had also proven an amazing recovery tool.  Once evacuees got to civilization, they discovered that with email you could say you were alive once and send the information to anyone in your address book and if you missed someone the message would be forwarded. Then of course there was now Facebook.  And blogging had been a huge part of grassroots PostK recovery activity.  With Gustav even people who didn’t share their contact information directly knew they could stay in touch via neighborhood blogs.   Cool, practical, heart wrenching, practiced anxiety was a wash over the area. There reached a point where you realized that this was all you could do, so you did it and waited. Nola pulled into Owen’s driveway.  


 


Owen had just put the garbage can into the garage. It was the last of the things that could fly around he had to lock up and he was in the process of shutting the garage door when he heard the gate. He was holding her almost before she was out of the truck. Nola saw and felt the intensity of his anguish and it broke her heart. He was going to make himself sick.  He finally let her go and they walked back down the driveway. He closed the garage door and took her in through the side door and into the library where the television was on mute to the Weather Channel.


 


He sat her on the sofa and proceeded to plead with her one last time.


“Please Nola, please tell me that you are here because you are coming with me. Forget the plane. I’ll drive us to Pennsylvania.”


“Owen you know I have to be with my family.  I can not go to Pennsylvania with you. I have responsibilities. We have dogs, cats, parakeets for God sake.”


“This is torture. I can’t leave you here. I’ll go crazy worrying about you.” And he held her close and kissed her and she wanted to split in two so she could be in both places at the same time. But she barely managed to get out was, “There is only one of me and I ….”


“I know and I don’t want to loose you.”


“Stop it. Stop it.  You won’t loose me. I’ve been through plenty of hurricanes.  Betsy, Camille, Katrina to name only a few really bad ones.  I’ll be fine. Your family will be worried sick if you don’t go home.  They have no idea what to expect from a hurricane. You have to go home. I have to be with my family. I know what to do to be safe. There is only one of me and I can not split myself in 2 and be in both places.” and tears started running down her face.  And she shook her head, wiped her tears looking down at her hand in disbelief. Was she really crying? Did her heart really hurt that much? Damn hurricane. “Owen, Please, please, for me, do the right thing and get on that damn plane!”


He realized how much he was hurting her and he pulled her back to him and said, “I’m sorry. I will get on the plane.”


Knowing that part of her wished she could run away with him, away from the stress, away from the pressure, away from the sadness that had nothing to do with a hurricane, she held him closer and whispered in his ear, “Let’s go upstairs and seal that with more than a kiss.”


 


He took her hand and they went up the stairs. Nola went first. Owen followed. He had already closed the all the shutters on the house, so it was close to a timeless dark retreat.  Nola stepped out of her shoes as she crossed the threshold of the bedroom. She pulled her shirt off over her head and took her bra off on the way to the bed. She slipped out of her panties and pants simultaneously and was waiting naked on the bed for Owen. As he watched her come out of her clothes he felt as if some other force were removing them like magic. By the time he got to the bed he was smiling. He took off his shirt and she smiled back at him as she ran her hands down through the hair on his chest to his pants. She flipped the button, unzipped his pants and pushed them down, with her hands moving down and caressing his buttocks as she did. She pulled him to her and took his sex into her mouth and he sighed and ran his fingers in her hair.  He enjoyed her mouth on him until he was insane with need and as he moved to take control he realized that he was still in his pants and shoes. She smiled as he twisted to sit on the bed to get out of the restraints and she kneeled behind him kissing his neck and nibbling his ear, her breasts again his back and he could feel how hard her nipples were. He turned to her and kissed her and pushed her to the bed. He moved his mouth down her neck knowing how much that aroused her. He fondled her breasts kissing each nipple with a gentle tug and then kissed his way down the curve of her belly and then gently but insistently licked her sex.  She was wet and needy and she tried to get her hands around his shoulders and to pull him up so he could enter her but she couldn’t make him move so she begged “Owen… please… please…” and he moved back up and kissed her. As he moved to enter her she moaned again “Please.” And he drove his sex into her with a desperation that surprised them both. She put her fingernails gently into his back muscles and wrapped her legs around him and disappeared into the sex act. Owen felt them merge and he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was deeply in love with this woman and with that thought he exploded out of his mind and into the universe.


 


They lay side by side next to each other in Owen’s dark timeless bedroom. Owen ran his finger up her arm and then down over the curve of her breast to her waist and she giggled and turned to him. “Thank you.”


And smiling he said, “Anytime” and kissed the woman he loved.


 


“What time is your plane?”


“I don’t want to talk about it. I promised. I’m going. But I don’t want to talk about it.”


She leaned into him and he closed his eyes as she ran her fingers down through his chest hair and fondled his testicles with the back of her hand.


“Where did you learn that back of the hand trick?”


“hmmm, I don’t remember. But I like the way it feels and men seem to like it too.”


“They do huh?”


“In my experience.”


“I am so glad for your experience.”


And she giggled again.


 


After a moment she asked, as she enjoyed running her hand through his chest hair, “Did you shut off the gas to the water heater?”


“It’s solar heated and electric.”


“Oh, really? Cool. Did you shut off the gas to the house?”


“Yes”


“Did you empty your refrigerator and freezer?”


“Yes and I gave the stuff to some of the old timers I know are not leaving the neighborhood.”


“I saw you lock up all the loose ends in the garage.”


“Yes”


“I assume that you are taking your truck to the airport and leaving it in long term.”


“Yes.”


“You can leave large trucks like yours on the bottom floor of the parking lot. But you might want to consider putting it on a higher floor, just in case.”


“In case?” and then he realized she meant flooding. “Oh, OK.”


“Try to park as close to the interior as you can so it’s harder for anything that gets blown around to get to it.”


“Anything else?”


“Does the gate to your driveway work without power?”


And he thought about that, “I don’t know.”


“Because there’s no telling how long power will be out and you want to be able to get into your driveway when you come home.”


He was still thinking about the gate design and she was still rubbing her hand in his chest hair.  Then he remembered. “Yes there is a physical key switch on the left side slide gate to allow you to move it to manual so you can slide it back in the event of a power failure.”


“Good. Take the key with you.”


 Now he was serious when he said, “Anything else?”


“Unplug the sensitive electrical equipment: TV, stereo, printer and then throw the main breaker to the house when you leave. Power fluctuations when the power comes back on can trash the electrical equipment.”


“Ok.”


“And fill up your bathtubs.”


“Why do you people do that?”


“Because the sewer system is gravity driven but water services require electrical power too stay fully functional. You want to be able to use the water in the bathtub, minimally, to flush the toilets if they have to shut off the water system for any reason and for an extended period of time.”


“Ok, anything else.”


“Leave your porch light on so I can swing by and tell if you have electricity.”


“Ok.” And he had a moment to think how practiced and practical she was before she leaned into him, kissed him before she said, “and please take your laptop and your cellphone so we can try and stay in touch. Sometimes one works when the other doesn’t.”


“Ok.”


“When your family asks why I’m not with you, say I have to stay close for my job and that I am out of the city safe on the NorthShore of the Lake. And please be nice to your mom while you are there. She loves you.”


And she kissed him very softly and insistently. After awhile she moved her hand down from his chest hair to his growing penis and asked, “What time is your plane?”


“not until 5:40PM.”


“hmmm good, We have time.”


 


Owen had fallen asleep. He had been keyed up for days and was exhausted. Nola had lain there for 20 minutes making sure he was out before she got up and gathered her clothes and quickly rinsed off in his amazing shower.  She looked at the clock when she got out, just before 3:30PM.  She toweled off and slipped back into her clothes.  She needed to leave while he was still groggy.  She mentally located her purse and keys on the kitchen counter. She could go down the stairs and be out the door and to her truck in a flash once she kissed him goodbye.


 


“Owen.”


“hmmmm….” And he barely stirred.


“I’m leaving now.”


“Hmmmm… don’t…” And she kissed him gently and watched him smile before she ran her hand once more through his chest hair. “I will miss you.”  And she was down the stairs and out the door before he was fully awake.


 


“Nola… ???  You’ll miss me alright. Especially after today.” He was sitting up on the bed.  “Nola?!.... Damn it, woman.”


And he heard the gate move and he tried to find his pants and couldn’t. And he ran to the window only to realize that the shutters were closed. He heard the gate close and knew there was no way that he could get to her now.  And he flopped back down on his bed miserable and breathing in the scent of their lovemaking.


 


“Damn Gustav!”

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