For me, in the Southern Hemisphere, it's September 20, though Blogger, a Northern Hemisphere program, will stick September 19 above this post. Ignore it. I'm going to write about September 20, okay?
There is no real literary-related stuff happening on September 20 in history, so here is the closest I can get: on this day, the Greeks defeated the Persians in the Battle of Salamis, in 480 BCE. A lot of stuff has been written about that, starting with Herodotus, the "Father of History" and one of the veterans of that battle was Aeschylus, one of the big three playwrights of ancient Athens.
There's plenty more if you like wars, plagues, suicide bombings and such, plus a mention of the creation of the first petrol-fuelled car, leading to the great age of pollution and fights over oil that we all know and love, but I might skip it. I only mentioned Salamis because there was a famous writer fighting in it.
Let's get on to the birthdays.
There was Arthur, Prince of Wales, born in 1486, to Elizabeth of York and that nasty man Henry VII. Imagine how much would never have been written if the poor boy had survived to become king instead of his brother Henry VIII! I mean, really. The history of Europe would have been so very different, whether for good or ill. A lot of people writing about the reign of Henry would never have had the chance. For starters, no Wolf Hall
and Bringing Up The Bodies
. ;-). No Six Wives Of Henry VIII
. No Anne Boleyn websites. No opera Anna Bolena
. Though, knowing Henry, he would have found his own ways to power, even if he was just the kid brother of King Arthur. And maybe Alison Weir and Hilary Mantel would have found plenty of material about the reign of Arthur to inspire them. Still, we'd have missed a lot of literary enjoyment.
Then there's Steve Gerber, a big man in the world of comic book writing, specifically Marvel comics. He's dead, alas, but did a lot during his lifetime, quite apart from his creation Howard the Duck. He has an entry in Wikipedia if you want to look him up for his long list of works.
Today, September 20, is also the birthday of George R R Martin, author of the great mediaeval epic fantasy soap opera The Game Of Thrones! If you don't know about him, you have been hiding under a rock. Who would have thought when I read the first novel of the series back when it first came out, that t would go on to be so huge? To be honest, while I do like it - it has such a wonderful feel of grubby "real" Middle Ages - there are other books of his I like better.
One of them, Fevre Dream is unlikely ever to be made into a TV series, unless they want something to follow up GOT once it's finished. There are some hints on the Internet that they might be able to get some interest in a film rather than a series. I'll believe that when I see it. It's standalone, not too thick, and it has vampires in it, but Martin's vampires are a race, not undead. One of them who is tired of killing, has come up with a formula that will enable vampires to avoid drinking human blood. He orders a magnificent paddle-steamer built so he can travel up the Mississippi river finding other vamps with his attitude to join him. It's set in the pre Civil War era because, as Martin said at a Melbourne con I attended, it was a time when slaves could be killed easily without anyone asking questions. Another Martin book I like better than GOT is the delicious Tuf Voyaging, a series of connected short stories set in a seed ship travelling through space, with the title character and his many cats. A good book for SF reading cat lovers!
It's also the birthday of Keith Roberts, author of the wonderful alternative universe novel Pavane, a classic of AU fiction, which starts with the assassination of Queen Elizabeth I and goes on to speculate on a world in which the Church rules.
Today is the birthday of the totally un-writing-related Sophia Loren, but what the heck! Such a beautiful woman and fine actress!
There are a number of Christian feast days, but it's also the seventh day of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which play a big part in literature. Mary Renault's The King Must Die is in there, among others. That's a wonderful book I first read when I was about twelve. My copy is falling apart. I'm holding out for the ebook which isn't yet on iBooks, though some of her other books are.
So, what do you think of this day in history?
Despite Tsunami-type rains, the people still came out in full force in order to see Bobbee Bee "The Hater" The Movie at Johnston Community College in Smithfield, NC on Saturday September 13.
Bobbee Bee "The Hater" The Movie, which was written and directed by Eric Graham, financed and filmed by Terrence Graham, and edited by Darius Carr, is a film, that has been described as a "psychological comedy," which takes a hilarious journey into the mind of a troubled teenager, who tries desperately to cope with his anger and self-hatred.
The thought-provoking film, to the many moviegoers in attendance, lived-up to all its hype, which surprisingly made them laugh, love, and learn as it took them on a roller coaster ride until the very end.
"This movie continues to grow in its importance.. every time it is shown, " said Eric Graham, who is a proud graduate of Winston-Salem State University.
"It, in fact, is a timeless piece, which I believe, will one day be considered a cult classic..."
Not surprisingly, keeping in character, however, the star of the film, William Isiah Shakur, who played Bobbee Bee "The Hater,"
failed to make an appearance to his own film due to the bad whether.
Despite Shakur's no show, everyone who viewed the film admitted that he did an excellent job in his portrayal of Bobbee Bee, which was based closely own his own life experiences as a teenager.
"I am very proud of my son..." confessed his father Terrence Graham, who currently works as an Academic Advisor at the prestigious Hampton University.
"This film couldn't have be made without his brilliant performance..."
Even though Bobbee Bee
wasn't presence, another character named "Smoking Joe Black," who created a lot of buzz throughout the film, which was played by Andre Walker, tip-toed smoothly down the Red carpet
with his signature well-groomed Afro and Afro-pick.
To his surprise, Walker's father, Andre Robert Lee, traveled all the way from Washington, DC in order to view his son's acting debut in the movie.
"Please support this movie...it was very entertaining and my son was outstanding as "Smoking" Joe Black." said the proud father." I would like to thank Terrence Graham for giving him the opportunity to shine."
With Walker's acting skills being displayed on camera along with a host of other budding young stars, Bobbee Bee
The Movie has the potential to land up in somebody's film festival or the big screen as well as B.E.T. in the near future -the sky's the limit.
Honestly, it's simply amazing what a couple of "country boys"
from Magnolia can accomplish, especially if they don't let their inflated egos get in their way.
With that said, many people will be shocked to find out that 95% of the cast and crew in the film are all from Duplin County, which is a testament of the GREATNESS
that resides in this small tight-knit community.
After the film was over, the Graham brothers, asked the audience, who viewed it Saturday night at Johnston Community College to utilize social media, whether on Instagram, Twitter, or FaceBook in order to help them promote the movie.
"We utilize social media, especially Facebook, to post a lot of stupid stuff..." said Terrence, during the question-and-answer portion of the film.
"However, now, you have an opportunity to post something positive, which potentially could have a direct impact on the minds of our children."
If anyone still denies the importance of this small independent film, Scott and , who were in attendance with their two sons, made it crystal clear that the film made an instant impact on their 16 year old son."Bobbee Bee The Hater is already a household name...we've already made connection to the movie last night when parenting our 16 year old. He got it!!
Stay tune for the next viewing of this film.
Because, it is coming to a town near you.
Submissions Needed. If you’d like a fresh look at your opening chapter or prologue, please email your submission to me re the directions at the bottom of this post.
The Flogometer challenge: can you craft a first page that compels me to turn to the next page? Caveat: Please keep in mind that this is entirely subjective.
Note: all the Flogometer posts are here.
What's a first page in publishingland? In a properly formatted novel manuscript (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type, etc.) there should be about 16 or 17 lines on the first page (first pages of chapters/prologues start about 1/3 of the way down the page). Directions for submissions are below—they include a request to post the rest of the chapter, but that’s optional.
A word about the line-editing in these posts: it’s “one-pass” editing, and I don’t try to address everything, which is why I appreciate the comments from the FtQ tribe. In a paid edit, I go through each manuscript three times.
Before you rip into today’s submission, consider this list of 6 vital storytelling ingredients from my book, Flogging the Quill, Crafting a Novel that Sells. While it's not a requirement that all of these elements must be on the first page, they can be, and I think you have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are.
Evaluate the submission—and your own first page—in terms of whether or not it includes each of these ingredients, and how well it executes them. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing because that is a must for every page, a given.
- Story questions
- Tension (in the reader, not just the characters)
Joanne sends the prologue and first chapter of Re-homing Pigeon. The full chapter follows the break.
If it weren’t for the Voo-Doo curse, she would have been a terrific mother. Cecile Lafayette Boudreaux stroked the Gris-Gris amulet around her neck. Born in the Louisiana bayou, she wasn’t supposed to scare easily. The weatherman drew spaghetti lines that snaked through the Gulf of Mexico, all heading right toward the mouth of the Mississippi. Mayor Nagin advised people to evacuate, while the die-hards of New Orleans planned their hurricane parties. Fire up the outdoor cooker; them mud bugs were waiting for cayenne pepper, hot sauce and 'taters. Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll.) At 9:30 a.m., Sunday, Mayor Ray Nagin issued a mandatory evacuation. Governor Blanco told anyone refusing to leave to write their names and social security number on their arms in magic marker so they could identify the bodies. They named her Katrina.
Cecile told herself that she'd be safe in their sturdy home in Saint Bernard Parish on the east side of the Mississippi River and New Orleans proper. Her husband, Armand, had made preparations ahead of time, boarding the house so not a sliver of daylight peeked through the plywood sheets. This wasn’t the first hurricane she'd witnessed in her thirty years, and it wouldn't be the last. No matter the warnings, she couldn't leave without Armand. He had responsibilities as drilling manager for Murphy Oil Refinery and hadn't been home in three days.
She opened the door and stared at ominous dark clouds and things that had no business (snip)
Were you compelled to turn Joanne's first page?
Right away the subject matter of Katrina creates interest, and the first paragraph does a good job of setting that scene. But the tension falls off considerably in the second paragraph as we do a little info-dumping and set-up. I ended up not turning the page.
I recommend eliminating much of that second paragraph and starting with ominous things happening, and include the fact that she’s pregnant. I think the stakes need to be raised right away. Here’s a rough draft of material from later that I’d replace that paragraph with. With the edits to the first paragraph, this would take you through 17 lines on the first page:
She opened the door and stared at ominous dark clouds. Thousands of mosquito hawks (dragonflies) flew in a frenzy, forming a gossamer purple and green funnel. Grey sky that turned black pelted rain in straight arrows, and then suddenly whipped sideways, almost knocking her over, sending loose shingles and garden tools rolling across yards and down the center of streets. She staggered inside and locked the door.
The baby kicked hard against her rib cage. “Agh. Whoa there Junior.” Straightening, she rubbed her swollen belly, soothing her son that wouldn't arrive for another ten weeks. Through the boarded windows, she heard large objects slam against the house. She prayed they wouldn’t (snip)
What do you think? For me, I get much more involved with the character and the trouble that’s coming, and I would have turned the page with this as an opening. Here are notes on the pages as it is:
If it weren’t for the Voo-Doo voodoo curse, she would have been a terrific mother. Cecile Lafayette Boudreaux stroked the Gris-Gris amulet around her neck. Born in the Louisiana bayou, she wasn’t supposed to scare easily. The weatherman drew had drawn spaghetti lines that snaked through the Gulf of Mexico, all heading right toward the mouth of the Mississippi. They named her Katrina. Mayor Nagin advised people to evacuate, while the The die-hards of New Orleans planned their hurricane parties. Fire up the outdoor cooker; them mud bugs were waiting for cayenne pepper, hot sauce and 'taters. Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll.) At 9:30 a.m., Sunday, Mayor Ray Nagin issued a mandatory evacuation. Governor Blanco told anyone refusing to leave to write their names and social security number on their arms in magic marker so they could identify the bodies. They named her Katrina. I realize that the spelling of voodoo might be charactercentric, so keep it if that’s the case. Otherwise, my dictionary says it’s “voodoo.” The rest of that sentence, though, didn’t work for me because there’s no clue as to her being a bad mother—no sign of children, anything. In other words, the reader has no idea what this refers to with no expansion and so it is, in essence, meaningless. Either give it meaning or delete it. I eliminated the first mayor reference because there’s another that’s stronger, and one seems like enough. The magic marker is a terrific detail. I moved the naming of the hurricane up to seat the information and end the paragraph with the deadly bit about magic markers and bodies.
Cecile told herself that she'd be safe in their sturdy home in Saint Bernard Parish on the east side of the Mississippi River and New Orleans proper. Her husband, Armand, had made preparations ahead of time, boarding boarded the house so not a sliver of daylight peeked through the plywood sheets. This wasn’t the first hurricane she'd witnessed in her thirty years, and it wouldn't be the last. No matter the warnings, she couldn't leave without her husband Armand. He Armi had responsibilities as drilling manager for Murphy Oil Refinery and hadn't been home in three days. I felt the overly detailed location wouldn’t mean much to a lot of people, and it clogs up the story. It’s a little awkward when you’re in close third person to use something like “her husband, Armand,” so I made little changes that will let the reader know who he is without having to state it directly.
She opened the door and stared at ominous dark clouds and things that had no business (snip)
For what it’s worth.
Submitting to the Flogometer:
Email the following in an attachment (.doc, .docx, or .rtf preferred, no PDFs):
- your title
- your complete 1st chapter or prologue plus 1st chapter
- Please include in your email permission to post it on FtQ.
Note: I’m adding a copyright notice for the writer at the end of the post. I’ll use just the first name unless I’m told I can use the full name.
- Also, please tell me if it’s okay to post the rest of the chapter so people can turn the page.
- And, optionally, include your permission to use it as an example in a book on writing craft if that's okay.
- If you’re in a hurry, I’ve done “private floggings,” $50 for a first chapter.
- If you rewrite while you wait for your turn, it’s okay with me to update the submission.
Flogging the Quill © 2014 Ray Rhamey, story © 2014 Joanne
being airborne. Thousands of mosquito hawks (dragonflies) flew in a frenzy, forming a gossamer purple and green funnel. It's coming . . . please let it pass over like all the others. Those news people always blew things out of proportion, right? Grey sky that turned black pelted rain in straight arrows, and then suddenly whipped sideways, almost knocking her over, sending loose shingles and small garden tools rolling across yards and down the center of streets. She staggered back inside and locked the door.
She phoned her father to ease his mind. Maybe it would ease hers as well. It was times like this she really missed her mother’s soothing voice.
“Come home, CeCe. There's still time,” her father said. Butte La Rose was one hundred and nineteen miles northwest, along the Atchafalaya River, safely out of the eye of the storm.
“I'm fine Daddy, really.” She forced her voice to sound steady. “Armi will be here soon.” She could hear grandmother, Mamère Le Bieu, chanting in the background. “What's Mamère doing?”
Her father snorted. “You know Mamère. She's beckoning spirits to keep you safe. You should'a seen her chasing dat gecko 'round the house to use in her potion. It was hysterical.”
Cecile's laugh came out jagged and raw. “Well, tell her I 'preciate her Voo-Doo and I'll sleep safer know'in the spirit of Evangeline is protecting me. Talk atcha later. Kiss Kiss.” She tugged on the small leather amulet tied around her neck.
They were prepared. The bathtub was filled with water, they had fresh batteries and flashlights, the cupboard had enough canned goods to last three days. The news warned those that had not evacuated to stay inside. Interstate 10, Highway 39 and Route 61 were deadlocked. Automobiles and gas stations were running out of gas. Babies were crying, cars engines were running hot. She glanced at the packed suitcases by the front door. They couldn't leave now if they wanted to.
By 11:00 a.m., winds reached 175 miles per hour. The sound of a train barreling down tracks rattled the rafters. The power went out. Oh God. She felt her way through the darkness for the edge of the kitchen table and slid into a chair. This is all normal, she placated herself. We're okay. She stooped to pick up a flashlight that rolled to the floor.
“Agh. Whoa there Junior.” The baby kicked hard against her rib cage. Straightening, she rubbed her swollen belly, soothing her son that wouldn't arrive for another ten weeks. Through the boarded windows, she heard large objects slam against the house. She prayed they wouldn’t break through.
She padded barefoot down the hall and stepped in water. She aimed the flashlight at the floor. “Shit.” A small stream weaved through grout lines in the tile foyer toward the thick padding under the front room carpet. Water pooled on concave window sills and seeped down the wall.
She dialed Armi's cell. Pick up, pick up, she pleaded to herself. Stay calm. The stilted voice of the machine kicked on, and she groaned as a second pain doubled her over. “Babe, are you coming home soon? Things are getting kinda scary here. Water's coming in under the doors and windows. There's no power. Oh . . . and your son's kicking up a fuss too. He mustn’t like the storm either.” Beep. The line went dead.
She rolled bath towels and shoved them under crevices. The flashlights standing upright on the table cast eerie round circles on the ceiling.
Okay Cecile, stay calm. He'll be here soon. There was nothing else she could do. She propped her legs up on the sofa, practicing her Lamaze breathing techniques. Deep cleansing breaths. In and out, in and out. She concentrated on her breathing as the howling of the wind faded into humming. A familiar cloud settled in around heras she started to nod off, No, no, please go away.
Armand listened to the voice mail from his wife. He made the decision to leave and send everyonehome. The CEO and operations managers had been in a dead-end debate on what to do with the oil tanks for three hours. One wanted to empty the tanks into huge storage containers and let them float in place tethered to docks. Another wanted to fill them with water so they were too heavy to float away. Armand made a decision to fill the empty tanks. What to do with tanks containing crude oil? Either decision would turn him against the opposing side. “Tie them down,” he ordered. “Then everyone get the hell out of here. I've got to get to my wife.”
Armand patted the dashboard of the high SUV, glad that it maneuvered through the rising water as he made his way home. Rain water had nowhere to go in below-sea-level New Orleans and most of the streets were already flooded. The levees would hold back the overflow of Lake Ponchatrain and the MRGO, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, as long as water didn't breach their tops.
Wind and rain beat against the windshield and rocked the heavy vehicle, sometimes tipping it onto two wheels. By the time he reached their home on Ventura Drive in Chalmette, the garage had four inches of water. The front lawn was strewn with debris.
“CeCe, where are you?” He bellowed as he pushed hard on the door blocked with rolled towels.
“In here,” Cecile said.
Armand sloshed through the kitchen to the front room. Two inches of water covered the thick beige carpet. “CeCe, look!”
She pulled herself into a sitting position, swung her legs onto the floor, and then jerked her bare feet out of the cold water.
“Are you all right? And Junior?” Armand stroked her stomach.
She managed a smile. “Better . . . now that you're home. He's not liking this storm. I can tell you that. The curse, Armi . . . I saw the cloud.”
“Nonsense, there’s no curse. We had better stack as much as we can.” Armand started piling things; dining chairs atop the table, ottoman and magazine racks on the kitchen counter.
Cecile followed behind him, lifting smaller items out of harm’s way as a sense of dread folded around her. Why won’t he believe? He blasted the battery-operated radio and she cringed. It offered nothing but pending doom. “Please, turn that off.”
He flipped it off. “If you're sure you are okay.” He kissed her cheek. “I guess we already know what to expect. The storm will pass, it'll get quiet when we're in the eye, then we'll get hit again as it comes around the other side.” He rubbed her back. “Want to curl up on the bed until it's over? . . . Unless you want to do something else to take your mind off the storm,” he said with a twinkle in his chocolate eyes.
“Oh, no you don't.” She laughed nervously. “Snuggle only Mr. Boudreaux. Junior is so active you're liable to give him a black eye.”
Their nap was short lived. The water kept rising.
The water reached knee-high, almost even with the mattress. “CeCe,” Armand said with alarm. “We've got to go higher.”
“Where?” She asked, staring at the rising water. “It's not like we have a second story? Should we leave?”
Armand forced open the door and peeked through the crack as water gushed in. The entire street was a river and the storm had not let up. “Up,” he said. “Into the attic. You go, and I'll gather flashlights and batteries.”
“Omigod! Don't forget bottled water.” said Cecile. “And whatever food you can. And pillows and blankets from the bed.”
Armand steadied the ladder as she crawled through the trap door of the attic, her wide girth squeezing through the hole.
He pushed water bottles, the battery-operated radio and as many other supplies that he could think of through the hole before he pulled himself to safety.
Cecile tried to adjust her eyes to the filtered light in the small attic. The air was stifling. The temperature had to be one hundred degrees. She tried to get comfortable on the thin blankets and pillows, amidst boxes of Christmas decorations and old college memorabilia.
“Armi, my back is killing me.” she moaned.
“You've done too much. And it's hotter than hell in here. Try to be still. Practice your breathing.” He pushed boxes farther into the eaves, giving at least the illusion of more space. He patted an old electric fan with large black blades in a round metal cage. “Why didn’t I buy that generator I’ve looked at a dozen times in the hardware store?”
“It’s okay. The storm won’t last long.” Cecile wanted to sound optimistic as she laid her head on the pillow, twisting and turning, trying to get comfortable. The back pain circled around to the front. “I think I'm going into labor.”
A loud crash pummeled the roof. Armand threw his body over hers to protect her from whatever came through. When the roof held, he responded. “No, no. it's too early. It's the stress causing Braxton Hicks contractions. They'll stop.”
A wet spot spread across the blanket. Cecile saw it, even if Armand didn’t. An ethereal cloud settled around her in a grey shroud. Her water broke and she let out a primal scream. Omigod! I can't have the baby here, in this attic.”
Cecile noticed Armand's ruddy complexion pale.
“I'll get help,” He said as he punched numbers into his cell phone. No service. Frantically, he dug through boxes. He found a small ball-peen hammer. He pounded on a metal vent as she watched. Without too much effort, the aluminum vent gave way as the wind grabbed and tossed it away. The opening was about twelve inches wide. He reached his arm through but it was too small to fit his head and shoulders. Rain poured through the opening and he choked as he pressed his face as close as possible.
“Help! Somebody,” he sputtered. “Can you hear me? Help! We're in here.”
Only the screaming sound of Katrina answered back.
His arm waved frantically through the small opening.
Cecile knew there would be no one to witness his plea for help. “Armi, Armi.” Sweat poured down her face as the cloud circled around her. “It’s taking our baby again. Why is this happening to us again?”
He shook his head, spraying water over her. He gave up the futile call for help and looked around for something to plug the hole. Not finding anything, he tore off his shirt, exposing the dark furry chest she loved to run her fingers over. But not now. She moaned, watching him roll the shirt into a ball and stuff it into the opening. Too small, it dropped onto the plywood floor. Worry lines crossed his brow. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with his arm. “I'm here for you Baby. What can I do?”
Cecile sobbed. “I don't know. He's coming. I can't stop him.”
Pains continued every three minutes through the night. Barely conscious from exhaustion and pain, Cecile sipped from the water bottle Armand held to her lips. The lack of air, screaming wind and constant bombardment of flying projectiles hitting the roof drove them into a near state of delirium. Transformers exploded not far away and a strange creaking sound strained against the storm.
Barely conscious, Cecile heard Armand’s prayer for God to spare their child. He knelt between her legs as she pushed their child through into the world. It was 10:56 a.m., Monday, August 29, 2005. They were in the eye of the storm.
So relieved to have the pain stop, at first she didn't notice the sudden eerie silence. She closed her eyes and let the pain ease from her body. The cloud around her dissipated. After her breathing returned to normal, she asked for her son.
“Don't CeCe. You don't want to see.”
“Please,” she whispered. “Let me hold him.” She saw the tears that streamed down his face. He was trying to stay strong for her, but she knew his heart was ripping in two. All those dreams he talked about —of tossing a ball with his son, teaching him to fish, sharing “guy” stuff, dissolved in his tears. “No, no, no.” Cecile clutched their third stillborn child to her chest. “Did you see it? It took our baby again. It’s my fault. I’m so sorry. It’s the curse.” The Gris-Gris made by her grandmother did nothing to protect her. Cecile knew they wouldn’t. The curse was too strong.
Defeated, he stroked her damp forehead. “No CeCe. There is no curse. It’s not your fault.”
When the back side of the storm hit, she expected the house to collapse. They lay on the thin blankets on plywood floors, their child swaddled between them in a beach towel. If the curse took her too, she was resigned to it. She prayed Armand would be spared.
By morning, the house was still standing and the storm had passed, but the danger had not. With bare hands and the small hammer, Armand ripped at roof shingles and studs until he had a large enough opening to fit his entire body.
For as far as he could see, there was nothing but rooftops and devastation. Along with trees and street signs, bodies of small animals floated by along with bits and pieces of people's lives; a wooden cane, a curly haired doll, a soccer ball.
Armand shouted until his voice gave out. Silence loomed as deafening as the roaring Katrina. He flipped on the radio. It told of total devastation. Levees had given way and over ninety percent of New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish were under ten to twenty feet of snake infested water. He made a flag out of his shirt, tied by its arms to the end of a broom handle and affixed it to the chimney with bungee cords found in college boxes. Cecile moved in and out of consciousness, calling for Armand and her Mama and mumbling about the curse.
Armand sat on the roof in a hundred degree heat, his back blistered by the sun, waiting for someone to find them. Where was everybody? Why were there no rescue boats? Once, he spotted a helicopter fly over. It flew off into the distance as he stood, waving his hands and shouting for help.
Cockroaches came next, in swarms, swooping in through every hole and crevice, landing on any surface, arms, faces, into their hair. He watched Cecile fight to keep them off the bundle she hugged close to her chest.
By Wednesday, Armand forced the last swallow of water down Cecile's throat. All of the food was gone as well. He gagged on the overpowering stench emitting from the rigid bundle Cecile rocked in her arms.
Finally, two men appeared in a small flat-bottomed fishing trawler. On the roof, Armand waved them toward him. “Help, please. My wife is inside.”
The men threw him a rope and tied up. Armand gently took the bundle from Cecile’s arms and helped her through the hole and into the boat, promising that he would hand the infant back the second she was settled.
Bloated animal carcasses floated by. The men didn't even ask what the atrocious smell was coming from the beach towel. The boat owner agreed to take them to St. Bernard Parish Hospital. It was also under water, but rescue helicopters were expected soon. That turned out to be an inaccurate time line.
They weaved through flotsam and around snakes knotted together hanging from low-hanging tree branches. Cecile spotted a little dog paddling furiously, his eyes bulging with fear. Twice he slipped under the water, unable to find a foot hold.
“Help him.” Cecile cried. “You can't let him drown.”
“There's no room for him in the boat, and no place at the hospital,” said the boatman. He looked numb.
Cecile screamed with all her strength. “No, NO, HELP HIM! Armi, please, you can't let him die too.”
At that, Armand jumped into the black, rancid water and swam toward the little dog. At least he could save someone. He grabbed the pup by the scruff of the neck and hauled him back to the boat. Tossing the canine over the side of the boat, Armand clung to the hull. “He can have my space.”
“Oh for Christ sake. Get in the boat before you get bit by a copperhead and we have to save your ass . . . again!” The man pulled on Armand's belt and heaved him over the side, nearly capsizing the small vessel.
The trembling little dog curled up beside Cecile. “It's okay Neptune, your safe now.” Cecile purred.
“Neptune?” Armand lifted an eyebrow.
“Because you pulled him from the sea.”
They arrived at the hospital and Armand was surprised to find Cecile's OBGYN tending to patients on the roof of Saint Bernard Hospital. The doctor briefly examined Cecile, shaking his head. He sedated her before prying the child from her arms. He spoke quietly to Armand, who strained to hear over the white noise rushing around in his head.
“Armand, that's three stillbirths,” the doctor said. “The drastic drop in barometric pressure caused women all over the area into premature labor. He was too young. If he would have had a few more weeks . . . and Cecile's body is weak. Next time you'll lose her too. There can't be any more babies.”
Armand reached inside the bundle and stroked the tiny cheek of his son one last time before handing him to the staff. The body would stay with the other corpses at the flooded hospital to be retrieved later. He knew the doctor was right. This had to be their last child.
Cecile mumbled incoherently, “The potion, drink the potion.”
“What’s she babbling about?” Armand asked the doctor.
“You need to talk to Cecile about that when she’s stronger.” said Dr. Teekell.
“If you know something . . .”
Dr. Teekeel shook his head. “HEPA laws. It’s past history and irrelevant to what’s happening today. It can wait until she can speak for herself.”