A Day Out and a Deluge

A Day Out and a Deluge June 20, 2024

drops of rain hitting blue water
image via Pixabay

Monday was my first day with any real energy since the Tuesday before last.

I wasn’t back up to snuff yet, but I was better. I’d finished my course of antibiotics. The nausea was nearly gone and I was back in ketosis for my PCOS. I was determined to get out to the movie theater, because Patheos was paying me to review Inside Out 2 and we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel after I’d been sick for a third of the month. But I was also determined because I was going stir crazy.

When I got on my phone for the day, there was a text from the mother of the Baker Street Irregulars. She was jealous that I was going to see the movie, and wanted to come along.

I read the text like a phrase from a foreign language.

I don’t think I’ve done anything with a friend just for fun in twelve months. This could be both: a fun day, but for work.

Next thing I knew, I was picking her up from her sister’s apartment.  And then we were on the way to Robinson.

The mother of the Baker Street Irregulars is a soft-spoken Appalachian woman, about ten years younger than me. She has lived in Steubenville her entire life. Most of her children were born when she was a teenager, but now she’s settled in with a very nice man who treats all the Baker Street Irregulars as his own, and they all live with her mother in the house on the corner. All together there are six Baker Street Irregulars plus a vast army of their biological and honorary cousins (Adrienne is one). God must love the poor, because He made them awfully fertile. On the way to the cinema, we chatted about the second youngest Baker Street Irregular, who has neurological issues but is making great progress now that she’s with a specialist. We griped about how inconvenient the traffic is on the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge. I said the famous last words that I hoped the rain wouldn’t pass us over so I didn’t have to water the garden.

It was fun to take that magical drive: across the wine-dark Ohio through rusty apocalyptic Weirton, across the dull monotonous farmland of Western Pennsylvania,

We got to Robinson too late for the showing I wanted to catch and too early for the next one. I was bone tired from the drive and my recent illness.  The next thing I knew, I was having coffee with my friend at the expensive grocery store near the theater– feeling rather robotic and out of place, like an alien attempting to pass as an earthling. This is how I always feel in Robinson.

When we came out with our coffee, the sky overhead was the color of a silverfish, and the air was thick as stew.

We went in to our movie. The next available showing was the 3d showing, so we ended up with those silly glasses on. It was a good movie, as I mentioned the last time I wrote.

When we got out of the theater, the sky was nearly black.

“I think it IS gonna rain,” remarked the mother of the Baker Street Irregulars, the same instant a bolt of white lightning lit up the whole horizon.

The deluge waited until we were back on the freeway.

Right between two exits,  just when I’d gotten up to 6o, the first enormous drops hit the windshield like snowballs, and then the floodgates opened. Rain came down in a wall of frosted glass. My wipers made no difference at all. I could only see the car in front of me as two red dots, like the eyes on a cursed doll. I couldn’t see more than a few feet of the road.

“I sure hope this goes all the way to Steubenville so I don’t have to water my garden,” I said to the mother of the Baker Street Irregulars.

A bolt of lightning struck blindingly close, from somewhere beyond the curtain of water; in less than a second, we heard the crack. Suddenly, I didn’t want the storm to follow us to Steubenville.

“Are those pieces of cars on the road?” asked the mother of the Baker Street Irregulars.

I couldn’t tell, but every once in awhile when I could see well, I did see ominous lumps of plastic that looked like they came off somebody’s bumper.

I realized I had no idea what to do. I’ll be forty this year and I’ve only been driving since I was thirty-six. I’ve driven through freezing rain, and I’ve driven in a tornado warning, but I didn’t know how to drive in a flooding torrent like that. I couldn’t get off at the next exit because I couldn’t see any exits until it was almost too late to merge right– and then I couldn’t get off because I couldn’t see the berm or the guardrails very well, and I didn’t want to merge too far and hit one. I couldn’t pull over to the side of the road, put the hazard lights on and wait until I could see, for the same reason– and besides, another driver as confused as I was might hit me from behind. I couldn’t keep going at the speed limit either. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, which was to abandon the car and run for my life.

It turns out that what you’re supposed to do in an emergency like that is slow down to just about thirty-five, look only as far as the front of your car, focus all your strength on staying between the yellow line and where you imagine the guardrail to the right probably is, and stay the course. It also helps if you mutter “Oh, this is crazy!” every few moments to the anxious woman in the passenger seat, and she agrees. Or, at least, that’s what worked for me.

Most of the other cars were performing the same maneuver, drastically slowed down. Every so often, an ambitious semi truck would pass me on the left, and when that happened my car would turn into a boat. Spray would gush at me from all sides like a log flume ride.  I’d lose that 16 inches of visibility I had in a world of water.  I kept fully expecting all the car’s dodgy electricity to die, but somehow we were spared.

A drive that should have taken twenty minutes took about forty. It started to lift just as we got to the Three Springs Drive exit and took refuge at the Sheetz.

She called her children, who were worried about her. I called home, where I found that everyone had been napping upstairs and wondering if it was going to rain.

I didn’t have any money to spare, but the bank card wouldn’t know that for another day. The Mother of the Baker Street Irregulars and I ordered a pile of unhealthy snacks and ate until the storm was completely over.

And then we were on the road again, through Weirton to Steubenville and home.

I went straight to bed and shivered for more than an hour.

When I got up, the mother of the Baker Street Irregulars was in my text messages. “Thank you so much, that was the best day ever!”

And it had been.

I think I like having friends.

 

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.

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