His
Picture
Nowhere
Throughout Katrina and its aftermath, the Mississippi River levees held. It was other levees that failed. But in addition to pushing a tidal surge onto the Gulf coast that vanished Waveland, the storm pushed water up into the river, so much water that here, at Buras near its end, it overtopped the levees, and the longest river in the world levelled out into Alcedia's home. Her sister Mary was by her side, holding a child that looked too young to fool with words. Others --- sisters and sons and cousins --- were scattered around their own shattered homes to either side.

It was not the homes, the debris, or the tears that made the whole thing unnerving as we got out of our truck and approached them. Ride [the photographer] and I had become used to this, our new landscape. It was the hush that still got us, just standing there, hearing every movement, every creak of bone, every swallow, breathing in pulses of silence while we gazed vacantly at what was once someone's everything, my tape recorder recording the nothing. Until Alcedia took the silence.

Alcedia: Now you know. You watch it on the TV, and you see devastation in other countries, and you go back to your life. Now you know.

Mary: The older folks is gonna grieve, I'm gonna tell you that, they gonna grieve.

Alcedia: They gonna catch heart attacks.

Mary: You seen my kitchen floor?

Me: I think I saw one back there. Over there, that tile floor?

Mary: That's a wall.

Me: Oh. OK. Hey, what's your name?

Alcedia: Tell him your name, tell the man your name, Corrin.

Me: Corwin, is that right?

Alcedia: Corrin. He's almost two.

Me: Corrin, do you want to come back and live here? This is a tape recorder.

Alcedia: Corrin, you want to come home? Tell the man with the recorder.

Me: You want to go home?

Corrin: Yep.

Me: Yeah?

Corrin: Yep.

Me: You want to...

Corrin: I fix it.

Alcedia: You want to fix home?

Corrin: Yep. Fix house.

Me: Yeah? You gonna fix it? You want to see? See, it's a little tape that goes around that records. Say something and it will record it. You want to hear yourself? OK, talk. Say something about your home.

Corrin: Hello.

[Tape breaks]

[Corrin laughing]

Alcedia: It's like death.

Mary: This is it for me, and, I praise the one that can see it happen, coming back, but me, I just can't, I can't see it happening.

Alcedia: Where my home is? Where?

Mary pulled another porcelain rooster out of the ground, wiped it off as best she could with her hands, and added it to her dark collection of roosters upon the top of the cement stairs that once led to her porch, the only thing still standing in its original place. Her dog was curled up on the slab of her foundation exactly where its favourite couch used to be. If not for the blue sky everything but us would be beige and ash. I walked alone with Alcedia away from the road, away from the first set of foundations, trying to find her home, and all I could think about was whether I should eat the Snickers or open the Cheetos when I got back to the car. I wasn't even that hungry. Alcedia bent down, pulled a Spiderman video game out of the ground.

Alcedia: Nobody knew about this place, we a little dot. Now we nowhere. This whole neighbourhood is just our family, eighteen grandchildren here, nine boys, nine girls. I'm a be a great-great-grandmother in a month. I wanna see them raised up, there's a lot of things we have to tell them. We're lost, you know, we're displaced. We're displaced with housing, we're displaced in ourselves. We don't know how to function right now. You know, we just waking up in the morning, and opening our eyes and starting wherever we gotta start. I guess what it was, we became so complacent, you know, that we weren't focusing on the outside. We had our own world here. We weren't focused on other people, we were just focused on our little town, you know.
I worked at the high school right there; I was the secretary there. That was my place over there.

Me: Your house was right there?

Alcedia: Yes.

Me: Where's it now?

Alcedia: That's what you helping me look for. Come on.

--- Excerpted from Joshua Clark's Story in
Tales from Nowhere:
Unexpected Stories from
Unexpected Places

Don George, Editor
(Lonely Planet)
Go to a review of
Tales from Nowhere

Send us e-mail

Subscribe

Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH