by Greg Van Belle
No one expected it to last, least of all me. But I woke up next to Alison and it had been snowing for two days. The weight of it was more than we could bear.
That night I dreamt of rolling down grassy hillsides and stumbling dizzy back to the top for another ride. When I woke our houseboat was canted toward the sea, sinking under the pressure of the freshly fallen snow.
“Lester,” Alison said calmly, “maybe you should get on the roof and shovel the snow.”
She never opened her eyes, never left her dream, but instead rolled back uphill into sleep and pulled the covers over her head.
Looking out into the living room I saw water waving against the glass sliding door. The front porch was under water. The square of carpet I usually wiped my wet feet on floated in a puddle by the door and knocked against the glass, trying to get in. A steady but slow trickle of water leaked in through the tattered seals of the door.
So now I was up.
While Alison slept on, I made coffee, careful not to stand in the rising water while I switched the appliance on.
I decided against toasting a bagel.
The television still worked and I turned it on low so not to wake Alison. The news showed fire crews making their way to the many houseboat communities around the city. Outside I heard heavy boots on the dock. On the news I saw rescue crews with long brooms pulling the snow into the lake, relieving houseboats of the weight.
From somewhere outside I heard a young woman start to yell. “We’re sinking! Somebody help us!” But sometimes you have to help yourself.
The lake found the weakest seal in our door and poured in faster just as I settled down with my coffee.
A huge purple salad bowl that was a wedding gift from a mutual friend was all I could find that resembled a bucket and I grabbed it from a high shelf and started shoveling water out the window near the front door. It was the first time we had ever had use for it. It was far too big to ever use for cooking, and didn’t match anything else we owned.
The next dock over, a man with a shovel crawled carefully onto his flat roof from an upstairs window while his wife watched from inside. With each pile of snow he threw into the lake, I imagined the lake rising, pouring into my house faster than before.
When Alison woke she quickly joined my fight with a garbage pail from the bathroom. Her bathrobe slipped from her shoulders as she bailed and she stopped to cover herself each time.
“There’s a shovel in the shed at the end of the dock,” she affirmed.
“Yes, I think you’re right.”
As a team we kept up with the water, the house seemed to stop sinking for a moment: the pitch remained the same.
“Lester, it’s still snowing. You should get up there and shovel the snow.”
“Don’t slow down. We’re getting it.”
“Lester? What will we do if the house sinks? Where will we go?”
“This house won’t sink,” I said.
“It’s sunk. I just know it. We should get out.”
“We’ll beat this.”
“Keep bailing,” Alison said. “The water’s getting higher.”
Snow kept falling into the lake from a darkening sky.