THE FLASH FLOOD by Gregg Williard

The flash flood made it impossible to drive home. She had to leave her car in a Walgreens parking lot and walk the rest of the way. Later she heard that someone was washed away when he left his car. She’d been guiding her boyfriend home, trying to avoid the worst streets, though she didn’t know what was and wasn’t impassible and could only describe the google street map of the area. He made another turn but couldn’t see the street sign. Then his phone died. Before it gave out he thought he saw something big and white bobbing in the water rushing down another street. What is it, a body, she asked, laughing nervously. He didn’t answer and she said, what are you going to do? I’m calling the police, he said. She said, I’ll call, where are you? But he wasn’t sure. There were flares at the top of the street that made the water red. No, yellow. But he couldn’t read the sign. She gave him more directions and the white thing moved out of view. Never mind, he said, and then his phone died. In his mind, he thought about the best way to get back, and the best way to tell this story to her and other people. The water glowed red. Green. Green red. The white thing was this big. This big. When he came to the next intersection, it was completely submerged.  He saw the white thing floating in the water again. It seemed to be snagged on something and was bouncing against the current, very much like a little flailing man. There were no other cars and it was very dark and had started to pour again. He would have to turn around again. What a story. The thunk of the wipers and the rattle of the rain on the top of the car. He wasn’t afraid. He felt a mounting fear. Mounting dread. If the water kept rising at this rate, it would wash over the street. Rise over the hill. Mount the hill. He started to turn around, then peered out at the white thing again. He got out of his car to try and see it better, but it was raining too hard. He got back in and wiped away the rain from his face and inched the car forward, trying to bring his headlight beams closer to the white thing. The street seemed to be on high ground, but there were only a couple of houses and they were dark.  At the rate the water was rising, it could come over the hill behind the houses. He had to turn around. But the white thing kept bobbing in front of him, clearer now in the beams. Judging from the submerged stop sign the water directly ahead looked like it might be about six feet, not so bad, but it was moving fast. He imagined wading into it, then diving into the water. He was a good swimmer. What if the white thing were his girlfriend, or his mother or father. A person, any person would look like this in a flood. Drowned, or almost drowned, and white, even a black person would be white under these conditions, an Asian person or Latino/Latina, or maybe that would sound weird. Anyway, anyone would be just such a bundle, turning, worthy of rescue. Would it make a better story to speculate about, not who it could be but what it could be, and then lead up to who it could be, and then, boom who it really was, and boom, it tolls for thee kind of thing, that he actually goes out there and tries to get it and boom, the person who was washed away was him and you’re hearing the story from a ghost kind of thing? He could go step-by-step:  the white thing could be a white garbage bag. Then a white garbage bag of ransom money for the kidnapped kid in the trunk of the car over there abandoned in the water, (go to the car or go to the bag for confirmation that the kid’s in the car?) or a white duffel bag off a Brink’s truck, loaded with payroll, the robbers ironically drowned. Then the bitter irony of wading in and being washed away trying to retrieve the white thing that turned out to be a white laundry bag, from the hospital nearby, maybe the one where his recovered white body lay on a gurney being worked over by desperate paramedics, but the bitter, more bitter, irony part because the laundry bag was stuffed with sheets (like one of his students who had worked in a hospital laundry had once described to him) filthy with shit, blood, vomit and apocryphal secret abortions or organ thefts gone wrong.

The flash flooding started up again, and water from the next street banked over the little hill behind the dark houses and came crashing down, washing over his car as high as the windows, moving so fast his story couldn’t keep up with the waves.

Gregg Williard's fiction, essays, poetry and visual art have appeared in Diagram, The Collagist, Your Impossible Voice, decomP, All The Sins and Sein und Werden, among others. He teaches ESL to refugees in Madison, Wisconsin and produces the spoken word radio show Fiction Jones/Under the Radar for WORT community radio ( His novel with graphics, The People in Tubes Motif  is forthcoming in 2019.

Read Next: THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED by Anastasia Jill