Dispatch From New Orleans
The holes in the house I grew up in.
Early the next morning, we drive back from Baton Rouge to do what we can about the roof. Somehow, the water has gone up since the day before. Carrollton and Claiborne Avenue, a corner that had been dry, has once again become part of the municipal pool. We can still get to the house, though, if only by driving on the wrong side of the street.
We scour the garage for tools and come up with a staple gun with no staples, a battery-powered screwdriver with no bits, some hammers and nails, and a box of garbage bags. Sunlight squeezes into the attic from toaster-sized holes in the roof. Since we don't have a ladder big enough to get us on top of the house, we nail the garbage bags to the attic's interior support beams. After a few minutes, we give up and just lay the bags on the spots where natural light touches the floor.
We carry out boxes of photos, my sister's letters, my dad's CD cases, everyone's birth certificates. My dad slings three winter coats over his arm, just in case they're still not back home when the weather gets cold.
Next stop: my grandparents' house, the house my dad grew up in. Actual next stop: standing water. There's no way to drive to their place on S. Jeff Davis Parkway, and there's no way to wade there either. The water's still too high in every direction, and there are no dinghies or choppers around to commandeer.
On the way out of town, we scoot unimpeded through the streets we used to take to work, to school, to the airport. On Claiborne, a bored soldier plays golf in the middle of the street with a club fashioned from a stray piece of wood. We make it all the way back to Houston for an exiles' dinner at my grandparents' temporary apartment. There's brisket in the oven, and the LSU football game's on TV. My grandmother's black-and-white photos, the giant plush turtle I used to sit on, and everything else they own are still in a dark, empty house. Maybe it's all wet and maybe it's not, but everything feels far away.