Mack Williams: Basement flood fantasy

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mack Williams


The beginnings of today’s column began with an alert  on my cellphone a few weeks ago. “Flash flood” came up this time; last time: “tornado .” It then occurred to me that the Lord’s promise not to resort to water again only referred to humanity as a whole, not some individuals here and there, now and then.

In my youth, back on the Old Concord Road we had no cellphone weather alerts, just TV; but that was still too fast to be called “snail weather” (in the fashion of “snail mail”).

On the way home, the great “gust of rain” as washing the city’s paved “gullies” spic and span!

The current rainfall was increasing so rapidly that each depression, each “dimple” of earth and asphalt stood out as pools of different sizes.

In an “Isaiah frame of mind,” the mountains weren’t being “made low,” and the valleys  weren’t being “exalted,” but the “low places” definitely stood out with their standing water! I had to slow my car so  I wouldn’t  wouldn’t  hydro-plane like those hydro-foil tourist boats on Russia’s Volga River (and on another note, our church organist recently played that wonderful piece by Hyfrydol).

The Canadian geese seemed to have appropriately and exactly expanded their previous dry-land wandering distance from the Dan River, based on the river’s new expanded width (as if somehow having worked a tape measure with their wings).

I stopped off where my son Jeremy works for a local lawyer. The building dates from about the 1940s,and its basement has some problems, rendering it somewhat like the turtle at the science museum where I work: “semi-aquatic.”

Jeremy called me over to the door leading to the basement, saying: “Listen!” I heard running water, but a much greater sound than that associated with “the tap.” Mendelssohn’s “Fingal’s Cave Overture” to mind.

We made our way down, that last step a “lulu” (in a bad way), having assumed a 45 degree slope from successive basement floodings over the years.

City sewer miscalculations and lack of upkeep has caused an upwelling of water through two holes in the law firm’s basement over the years, the floor assuming a “mound” shape, as if “something” other than water were trying to work its way out of the ground. The sight of a water-logged box of paperback books, the topmost book with “Stephen King” printed in big letters added an air of eeriness to the “bubbling” from those holes.

In one room, the water was almost waist deep (but not yet “Robert Ballard depth”), making me think of Orpheus in an aquatic Hades ( but again, the Lord said he wouldn’t use water again).

In a particularly awful analogical thought, those flooded rooms kind of reminded me of pictures someone had taken inside Berlin’s old flooded Fuhrerbunker back in the 1980s before the East Germans destroyed it (or said they did).

Then, the water disappeared down those couple of holes in the floor, as fast as it had come, leaving rippled mud on the floor, just like when the Dan River overflows onto its adjacent walk trail (but this flooding, more “private”).

Jeremy called me over to the two holes which had just before been “geysers,” and shone his flashlight down them, I thought this was going to be like that point in “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1959) where James Mason drops a rock into a chasm (in this case a miniature “chasm”), and after an interminable amount of time, there is a splash, then a flash of light from a phosphorescent pool. Suffice it to say this did not occur.

And my imagination of what lay below my feet  did not include a semi-masked man “sewer-singing” about “night-music!”

But we did hear the sound of water rushing back down into the earth (sewer pipes), as it had, time, and time before, during previous street sewer “wash-outs.”

In the case of this man-made/nature-made subterranean phenomena the old saw from greater heights proved apt below: “What goes up, must come down (even if it comes up again, and again, and again).

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