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Welcome to the 2020 APRIL A to Z Challenge
if you would like to know more about the A to Z Challenge, founded 11 years ago by Arlee Bird at Tossing Out, read here
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The Seventh extract from my novel in progress will appear half way through most likely.
Brief synopsis of plot and characters :
Mathilda, my first main character, is American and lives in New York City. She is a student at NYU where she is preparing a thesis on the origins and developments of African American Music. She is a first person narrator. Her timeframe is 2005.
Bartolomé, my second main character, is Cameroonian and lives in Yaoundé. He is a professor of Mathematics at the University there. I will be using a third-person narrator for this character from his Point of View. His timeframe is the early ’90’s.
H is for Hurricane
I wake up with a jerk in my motel room in Hattiesburg with the beating of the wind on the roof. The weather has been stifling hot, replaced this morning by the spatter of the rain on the windows. It trickles down the door and leaves a small puddle in the uneven concrete on the patio. The pool is littered with crisp leaves and stray wrappers.
I turn on the T.V. and fall on the news. The Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco is speaking to the press,
” We are now declaring a state of emergency for Louisiana and particularly New Orleans where the Hurricane Katrina that has recently devastated the Southern coasts of Florida is forecast to hit in the next 48 hours.
We recommend to evacuate the city and gain the mainland : Mayor Ray Nagin will be issuing the official order shortly. All public transport will remain operational as long as possible. The Superbowl Dome is being set up as a refuge for those without personal vehicles, as is the Convention Centre .
The Coastal Guards, Fire Department and NOPD are on full alert. For those of you who remember Betsy, in 1965, was measured at level 3. Katrina has now been upgraded at level 5, the strongest Louisiana has ever seen so we urge you not to take this warning lightly.
We have requested from the president that the Federal State decree a National State of Emergency in order to mobilise the army and make funds available to the FEMA, still on alert in Florida. Hourly updates will be issued on all national and local networks.
Thank you and stay safe. may God be with you. “
A commercial for Sugar Loops comes on next, blinding my gaping eyes. I gasp. I grab the phone and dial Annabella’s number. It rings, and rings, and rings, then there is a click,
” Hi, There. Annabella here. Please leave your request and I will get back to you shortly. Problems with a spouse, a co-worker ? Unexplained pains or stiffness ? You’ve knocked on the right door. I can help.”
I dial again. Someone picks up.
“Yes, who’s this ? ”
“Annabella, it’s Mathilda.”
“Hi, honey. How ‘re you doing ?”
” I’m phoning to ask you that !”
“Yeah ! Oh, the hurricane. Well, we’re all boarded up. Plenty of food and water stashed. And we’re migrating to the first floor, for safekeeping, with my sisters and some friends to wait it out. But I’m worried about Duke, you met him I think over at the Blues Owl, who lives with his family East of town, over at St Bernard’s Parish. That’s where the floods are the worst usually, near the Sound, although they do have the wave breakers . “
“Oh, Duke, yes. He’s the one who suggested I go up North to Mississippi and Gospel Country. But Aren’t you leaving the City ? “
“Ah, Nah ! Where would we go ? The French Quarter is higher up and we’re far from the Gulf. Although the ground floor might get flooded by the river, but the roof should hold against the winds, it always has. “
“But this is the Big One, Ana ! They’ve never seen anything like it at the Weather Department. It could be catastrophic ! “
“Well, if it gets really bad, we’ll go uptown to the Superdome. That can withstand anything. Gotta fly, friends knocking at the door. Speak with you soon.”
“Ok, if you say so… Give me a call if I can help in any way. Take care Annabella, stay safe.”
“Will do honey, we’ll be Ok, big hug. Bye.”
I fall silent after the dial tone went dead, my mind a blank. Then my blood starts to rush through my brain along with morbid thoughts of disaster. I spend the next three days holed up, looking at the wind bend branches and chucking trash about. I check the TV news, it seems, hourly. Annabella’s phone goes dead on Monday noon.
On Wednesday, my phone makes me jump and a tearful voice says,
“Hi, it’s Ana, we’re ok but shaken by the chaos here. It’s so terrible, I can’t speak. I’ll phone you in a couple of days, honey, but New Orleans is in mourning, we’ve lost so much. The Big Easy will recover but it will never be the same.”
“Oh, Annabella, I’m so sorry. I’m with you with all my heart. Talk to you soon, take care.”
“Thanks, darling. Bye.”
New Orleans, having maintained the 2020 Carnival, is one of the hardest hit cities of the States, following the Covid-19 outbreak. More than ever, it is no longer the Big Easy, but the Big Forgotten.
The mobile homes financed by the Federal Government, sent as shelter relief, by Bush, only arrived in Louisiana in December 2007. We saw them, lined up, half of them not even hooked up, when we arrived in April 2008 from Hattiesburg.
Driving out of the City by way of the East towards Biloxi, we saw countless homes collapsed on their poles and abandoned, wrecked cars and boats all over the banks of the roads and shoreline.
Even the French Quarter experienced unprecedented floods and damage. Many inns, clubs and restaurants had only just reopened in time for the 2008 Carnival. Street tiles and sidewalks, still left un-repaired. The Federal Funds released were shockingly inadequate, and weren’t set into motion until months after August 2005.
Documentary by Spike Lee, 2006, Katrina, When the Levees Broke, Requiem in Four Acts, here
1927 Flood, The Great Betrayal, John Barry, here
A Hurricane called Betsy 1965, Gemini 5, Cyclone documentary, here
Do you know what it means to Miss New Orleans, Billie Holiday & Louis Armstrong, here
Blue Valentines, Tom Waits, here
A Time for Us, Tom Waits, here
The Night they drove O’ Dixie Down, Joan Baez, here
New Orleans City
New Orleans, April 2008
Thank you for stopping by. Please feel free to comment an I will be sure to reply.
have a sunny Thursday. See you tomorrow for another extract from my novel. Back with Bartolomé.