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Creative Nonfiction Contemporary Drama

A warm breeze brushed over my exposed skin one balmy evening as I lay in my spa. As the air heats up due to the sun, the air and evaporated moisture rise, leaving a deficit. This needs to be filled, and colder air rushes in as wind. On this occasion, I had no complaints.


I luxuriated in my spa, overlooking my beautifully landscaped back garden. My mind wandered back to when we decided to sell our house. After a couple of years of hard work and expense, we had finally refurbished it into a saleable state. 


My name is Katrina. We wanted to sell because our home is far to the North of the city, while my dear old Mum lives beyond the city to the South. Although she has become frail, she decided to stay in her own home—not a huge family home, as she had already downsized, thank goodness. My mother has always been independent and self-sufficient. As she grew older, she did not accept the limitations that crept up on her like rising damp. 


By the time I had to make about three weekly trips to Mum’s to help and provide for her, my husband Fred and I decided to sell our home and move somewhere nearer to her. There is a saying that the motorway in Auckland City provides the cheapest parking in the world. You don’t have to pay to be parked behind traffic for hours. I had become sick of the hours spent commuting to help my mother. Arriving home at 8pm and having Fred wonder when dinner would be served made me want to cook it and throw it at him. 


Our upstairs living area had already been renovated, and we lived mainly on this floor. The spacious self-contained downstairs had been wonderful as our three boys grew up before they married and useful for visitors. My Mum stayed there during the first COVID lockdown. It needed painting, recarpeting, and re-draping. Fred made this his spare time project. Family helped, as we have a builder, painter, carpet layer, and electrician we can call on. This saved money, but it also took ages.


The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame is one of my favorite stories. I loved it as a child and loved reading it to my children. This story is no Wind in the Willows, though my husband, Fred, vowed to behave worse than Toad. He wanted to murder a couple of our neighbors—not because they tried to overrun our home with weasels and stoats—weasels and stoats would have been welcome. What happened to us is a heart-rending story. 


As usual, I woke up one morning and wrinkled my nose at a strange odor. It smelt like someone had used the toilet down the hallway for a ‘big dump’ and forgotten to flush. Fred, no doubt. I popped my slippers on and wandered down to the bathroom. The toilet looked pristine, but the smell still permeated. As I walked towards the kitchen, it seemed to waft from downstairs. How strange. I went down wondering what had caused it. Indeed, it's not a cat mess. Much too putrid. As I rounded the landing, I gazed in horror at the watery, sludgy brown mass that covered every square inch of floor and the skirtings up to and covering the second last step. It made the boiling sulfur mud pools of Rotorua (named Rotton-rua during our childhood on account of the rotten-egg odor.) as fragrant as a bunch of roses. 


“Fred, help me!” I didn’t know whether to cry or scream. I wrung my hands in despair, gagging at the smell. We had finally finished renovating the downstairs area, and this unbelievable nightmare had appeared from nowhere. A brain the size of a fifty-cent piece could easily conclude it was sewerage.

“Fre-e-ed!” with more urgency.

I heard Fred come bounding down to join me. He stopped short. “Hell's bells, what is this?”


Fred rang the City Council, the Insurance company, and his brother-in-law Pete, who knew the right people to sort out the mess.


The City Council had to unblock the sewerage system. They had no idea what had blocked it, or why it had built up, but it had entered our place because our situation on a high hill is the lowest on the bottom curve of a cul-de-sac. It had entered through every orifice it could. Through the plughole in the kitchenette, the shower plughole, the basin plughole, and the toilet. The whole of the bottom story had brown goo over its floors. The furniture, bedding, drapes, carpet, and everything at floor level had absorbed it and been contaminated. Ruined to the point of non-retrieval.


Fred wallowed in misery. He had worked so hard to get everything looking good to sell the place. Everything soiled above floor level had to go to the Waste Transfer Station. The Insurance company helped a great deal. Our entire bottom floor had to be stripped bare, and the walls had to be removed up to a meter. 


The poisoned air didn’t help our lungs, and we couldn’t eliminate the smell. We worked hard to get it all cleaned out, for the sake of our sanity and health, that within three weeks, it looked bare, with no sign of defilement, and ready for work to begin. 


Some of our neighbors expressed concern at all the activity, and we told them we were renovating. We didn’t want the truth getting out in case rumors of being flooded with sewerage put anyone off buying our home in the future.


After the end of three weeks of work, as if we hadn’t been through enough torture. . . it happened again. 


I wept in disbelief for days. There was just as much stinking filth, but nothing of ours had been downstairs to be soiled this time. The City Council couldn’t believe what had happened twice in the space of three weeks. This time, they unblocked the underground sewerage pipes and went further to check if anything was making it bank up the way it had.

They explained it to us: “We’ve never encountered anything like it. We came across a large plug of concrete blocking the pipe underneath the road. It’s a mystery. Who would have dumped concrete into our sewerage system? It’ll be a pig of a job to remove. At least we know what caused the mess to come up the pipes and into your home. It shouldn’t happen again.”

My eyes were puffy from crying. “It can’t happen again. You have to fix the problem properly this time.”

“Do you have any idea who could be responsible? I know it is a difficult question,” said the Council representative who had come to explain what they had found. 

We stared blankly at each other and back to the man on our doorstep.

“If we ever find out,” said Fred, “they’re dead!”


One day soon after, as Fred put out the rubbish and green waste bins, he picked up a crumpled piece of paper off the pavement. He glanced at it, and without tossing it into the bin, he brought it inside.

He looked at me excitedly as he held it out. “Guess what this is?”

I looked down. “A piece of screwed-up paper?”

“Look again.”

“It’s an order slip for a delivery of . . .concrete!”

“Look at the date—two months ago. Check the address—‘35 Helmswood Drive.’ It’s on the other side of the block. It must back onto one of our neighbors' backyards.”

“Do you think they are the ones?”

“I’ll drive around and check.”

“Please don’t take the law into your own hands. Killing them isn’t going to help.”

“If they’re dead, they can’t pay for the damage. I’ll be telling the City Council if this is the proof.”

“But how can concrete from a job end up in the sewerage system?”

Fred shook his head. “They flush it down the loo, dummy!”

“Who would do something so stupid?”

Who, indeed.


Fred told me how he confirmed the truth. He had driven around and sauntered up the driveway on a mission. A Chinese couple answered the door, and Fred raved on about how lovely their home looked after all the work that had obviously been done. He wanted to know the name of the firm that had done the job. 

In broken English, the man explained everything that had been renewed and handed him a business card with the details.

“Looks like you had your driveway and deck area done as well. It looks great.”

The couple smiled and nodded. “Other business did a great job.”

“Did you have any concrete left over? Did you put it down the toilet?”

The couple looked at each other. Suddenly, their English became incoherent, and they shut down the conversation. “No, understand. Busy. Goodbye.”

Fred looked smug. “I bet the Council will have fun with them. They are the culprits, alright. Mystery solved.”


Knowing that what we had been through had a known cause didn’t make me feel better. Later, the Chinese family still denied all knowledge, but we heard that the city council fined them over $20,000. Justice had been served.


Another brother-in-law, Patrick, a builder, offered to help Fred re-GIB the walls. 


After many months, all the damage had been repaired, and our home was ready for sale.


Remember where I am right now? Marinating in my spa. 


Now, let’s talk about the weather. For those of you who can’t understand how global warming can result in freaky weather events, this will enlighten you. We all know what happens to warmer air at higher altitudes. It forms clouds which drop their moisture as rain. Our ancestors did not understand this process. Nowadays, we know it as the water cycle. At times, nature transforms this into something fearful. It seems to happen more frequently due to global warming. What a paradox that hotter air around our planet isn’t limited to hotter temperatures everywhere.


When the wind blows in opposing directions and crosses paths, it can form rotating systems of clouds and thunderstorms. If this comes from a system formed in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, it is called a tropical cyclone, even if the temperatures plummet.


After a massive deluge from the Auckland Anniversary storm (27 January 2023) and more destruction from Cyclone Gabrielle (14 February 2023), all Aucklanders in New Zealand hoped that the next predicted storm would bypass them. Our living on a high hill should save us from catastrophe, right? As you are aware, being on a hill has never done this for us to date. 


Then the winds blew, and the rain came. On 9 May 2023, the heavens opened and dropped everything, including the entire Island’s cats and dogs. This predicted weather system dumped only about half the amount of rain in comparison to the other two events, but in shorter, heavier bursts on already sodden ground. Widespread flooding occurred in many areas. Some received a month’s worth of rain in each hour burst. Auckland declared a state of emergency. Evacuations began. We became anxious about how family and friends in other suburbs fared. We felt nervous because most of my family is here in Auckland. 


The heavy rains inundated many parts of our North Island, causing landslips, road closures, and evacuations. The low-lying suburbs, where our family members lived, escaped flooding. They thought we were safe on the hill. We certainly didn’t live in an area prone to slips and rainwater runs down hills. This caused the problem. Our house is a little lower than our neighbors’ homes and the water ran around it and inside via the garage door. Fred and I had our ground floor inundated. The lower floor became awash with shin-high water. A friend loaned us his pump to suck out the excess. We also bailed.


It had been a catastrophe, but we were grateful no faeces floated in the effluent surrounding us. The Insurance Company told us they couldn’t decide until later, and if the carpet went moldy, they would consider a complete replacement. With new carpet already down, we wanted to try to save it. We also didn’t want the odors of mold contaminating our air. The smell of sewerage hadn’t helped our lungs.


Draining away the moisture via the pump made the next steps possible. The soggy carpet needed a wet and dry vacuum. Still, with none left for hire in the entire city, we stressed over the situation. Other people had snapped them up to solve their own soggy carpet sagas. We tried ringing up the carpet cleaning companies who also deal with floods. As we have a complete living area above our flood, we were not a priority for assistance. With so much damage citywide, waiting for our name to come up was pointless.


The problem with leaving our carpet to dry naturally would leave it a breeding ground for mold, the putrid odor would be detrimental to our health, the carpet would become misshapen and discolored, and require complete replacement. We managed to loan a machine for sucking up moisture and worked on getting rid of it for days.


There were no dehumidifiers for sale in the city. We rang around friends who hadn’t been flooded and asked if we could loan theirs. We also placed heaters in strategic places.


Eventually, only one small corner needed to be replaced. Our insurance covered the cost of this repair, and they thanked us for being proactive in the face of our third disaster. 


Once the damage from Disaster Three had been rectified, we finally felt ready to sell our home. In fact, we couldn’t wait. The sooner, the better. We trusted neither the weather nor the sewerage system.


My mother finally decided to move into a home. The family decided it would be wise for her to live near where we live. The home where one of my younger sisters worked as a manager appeared to be a logical choice for Mum.


It is much wiser to stay where we are at present. In fact, in view of our mother's choice, we may have regretted being too far away if we had already moved. 


There are less disastrous ways we could have been prevented from moving, but life never turns out as expected. Except, please, no more floods of any kind or consistency.


THE END


March 08, 2024 07:56

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8 comments

Graham Stronach
09:08 Mar 14, 2024

The stark reality, the journalistic style and the subject matter perturbed me at first, then I warmed to your style. A story, well told, with sensory impressions not entirely pleasant. Your story was suggested by the new Critique Circle. Please take a look at my first offering, here on Reedsy.

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09:11 Mar 14, 2024

Will check you out Graham. Oh dear, you were perturbed. Should I have put a warning in? It's a case where the bad luck befalling the characters seems stranger than fiction.

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Marty B
22:13 Mar 09, 2024

Oh S@#$ !! Flooded twice with sewage and then a torential downpour. You have great insurance, and a supportative City. In the US the insurance would have dumped us out with the sewage ;) I liked the bit about finding the cement receipt and figuring out the culprit. Thanks!

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04:19 Mar 10, 2024

Thanks for reading, Marty. Lol. They did figure out who did it, and it did fit one of the other prompts but I stuck with the one I chose. Definitely an example of creative non-fiction. It's true, except it happened to a relative. The 'narration' sounded better in 1st person. Some people have insurance company woes but generally the outcome is as good as portrayed in the story. Real life can be as dramatic as fiction.

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Alexis Araneta
08:43 Mar 08, 2024

Kaitlyn, as usual, you built such an immersive story. Such amazing sensory detail. Great job. (Also, I didn't know you were Kiwi. Hahaha !)

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02:19 Mar 09, 2024

There's a few of us in Reedsy. (Kiwis) Thanks for your comment, Stella.

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Mary Bendickson
08:25 Mar 08, 2024

I, too, wrote about a flood. Not nearly as dramatic as your experience but higher up.

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02:19 Mar 09, 2024

Thanks Mary. Will check yours out. . . Did check it. Plenty of drama!

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