Harry loved life in Grassybridge. The town was leafy and green and built in a saucer-shaped valley. The houses were gingerbread style with red roofs, manicured lawns and bright flower beds. No fences. Great neighbors. Lots of kids on trikes and bikes. And best of all, great parties. The entertainment committee knew no bounds when it came to organizing fun events for the adult community. Harry whistled as he exited the highway into the approach road into Grassybridge. What’s on tonight, he wondered.
Hello, what’s that crazy old man doing now, he thought as he passed the eyesore on the road. It was a 5-acre plot with an old homestead that leaned over to one side under a rusted corrugated iron roof and surrounded by a yard full of junk. The old man was dragging wood to where there was a wooden skeleton standing among a forest of timber props and supports. I’ll keep an eye on this, thought Harry. It’s time the old guy moved out of here. He’s a blight on our landscape.
The party that evening was great. A Roman evening. The dress code was Togas. You drink a few glasses of wine and circulate. Mingle and chat. There were about a 100 men and women in the hall and soft furnishings were laid out all over the place. Harry enjoyed himself. There was a light drizzle falling when he went home after midnight. The first rain of the season!
The following day Harry decided to stop and ask the old guy what he was doing.
“Building a boat, can’t you see?”
Harry looked and could see the outline of a boat rising from the junk.
“Going cruising? Fishing?”
“Nope! It’s for when the rain comes.”
“You expecting a big one?”
“You’re danged right I am! The biggest! Ever!”
Harry walked away. Sounds as though the old man is leaving anyway, he thought.
When Harry left the hall that evening, it was drizzling again, harder than last night, but still a drizzle.
The parties continued with great themes from the committee. Every evening Harry slowed and looked at the old man’s boat-building efforts as he drove past. The work was progressing at a good rate. And when he left the parties he stood on the threshold for a minute before he stepped out and examined the rain. And every evening it was stronger and with bigger drops falling.
He stopped one evening and walked over to the old carpenter. “You were dead right! This rain is harder every evening! What do you think’s going on?”
“One of my friends at the pub reckons it’s because of you people and your parties down at the hall.”
“That’s impossible! Who’s watching us? Anyway, it’ll stop one of these days; meantime it’s good for the farmers and the water department.”
“We’ll see,” said the old man. “If you need a lift you know where to come, okay?”
“Thank you,” said Harry, surprised and pleased at the invitation.
The days, weeks and months passed and not much changed, except that the nightly rain became quite ferocious and was causing problems in some places. Pools developed in sunken spots. Fishponds overflowed. The community swimming pools overflowed. The stormwater channels and drains could not cope with miniature floods. A few badly designed roofs collapsed when the rainwater couldn’t run off quickly enough. The huge roof over the hall sank in the middle and the added weight of water caused it to collapse, releasing gallons of water into the hall, soaking the furniture and the curtains. The floorboards began to curl, making it dangerous to walk there. The parties were canceled.
A road washed away and the support to the only bridge in the town was hit by a floating car. It collapsed into the road and blocked it.
The town council called emergency meetings and held strained discussions about what to do and what not to do.
“Our town is situated in a valley,” explained the chief of the fire department. “There are no natural exits. If this rain continues the valley will be filled with water. I do not want to describe to you what our situation will be like then. Perhaps a solution may be for all of us to leave town and seek higher ground?”
This statement was followed by an outcry.
“Can’t we dig channels to let the water out?”
“Water flows only downhill. We have no adjoining downhill. We cannot let water out anywhere. Water could soak into the ground, but the ground is already soaked and can’t absorb much more. The water will evaporate eventually but it may take years and meantime it’s still raining non-stop”
“There’s already a big pool down at the end of Maple Street!”
“I saw cars being washed along Fifth Street!”
“Keep your kids inside or they’ll be washed away too!”
“What about our pets? The dogs and cats?”
“Shit, what a bloody mess!”
A few people took refuge in the church, thinking that nothing bad could happen to them there. One night the spire collapsed and crashed through the roof, killing three people who were sleeping on the floor. The vicar was furious with himself for having given permission for people to stay in the building.
Harry, who lived alone in a house, became very nervous. He thought often about the old carpenter’s warning. Perhaps the old guy was just joking. He wondered what was going on with the boat he’d been building. Harry couldn’t see it from any of his windows, but Mike could. He called Mike.
“Mike, it’s Harry. Do me a favor. From your kitchen window, you should be able to see the road that comes down from the highway. Can you see what looks like a boat somewhere there? I’ll hang on.”
“Wow, Harry! I can see it! It’s got sails up and it’s moving! It’s even got a red flag at the top of a mast! Quite a sight!”
Harry gulped, muttered ‘thank you’ and slammed the phone down.
Now what, thought Harry? I could get to the yard, but if he’s sailed I’ll be nowhere. If I sit here I’ll probably drown. He sat thinking for a while and then decided. The old guy invited me, I’m going after him!
He drove his car to the yard and as Mike had told him the boat had moved and was out of sight. With sails and a following wind, it was moving fast. He stood, water lapping at his ankles, and thought again. What should I do?
Back home he poured himself a couple of single malts. Who knows if I’ll ever drink this stuff again? He slept.
Harry stumbled outside next morning and to his delight, found that the wind had changed overnight and was blowing in the opposite direction.
He ran inside, boiled the kettle, made coffee, drank some and poured the rest into a thermos flask. He cut bread and cheese, threw everything into the car and headed for the boatyard.
There, partly hidden behind trees and bushes was the red flag at the top of the mast. Harry ran into the yard, grabbed a wooden board from a pile, and waded into the water, pushing the board in front of him. Then he paddled with his hands and found that he was moving forward and could adjust his direction.
It took a while to reach the boat. He could see no way of getting aboard and he shouted as loudly as he could. A few heads peered down at him from the railing. After some time the old guy’s head appeared. He laughed when he saw Harry.
“So you didn’t believe me!” he shouted and Harry wrung his hands in apology. A rope ladder slid down the side and Harry grabbed it and with some difficulty, and climbed aboard.
“I told you,” said the old man as he helped Harry onto the deck. “The rain’s been going for 33 days already. It will probably stop at 40 when there’s not much left. Your town is doomed. No more parties!”
These days, Harry is happily married and he and his family live in a house on a hilltop.