Tuesday, January 27, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 4

When I awoke the next morning, my Teddy bear spoke,
“Mary, today I want you to write three copies of a note. In the note put your full name and that you are all right. Tell that your mother, Mary Cusak went to Luxora to the beauty salon and your father, Karl Cusak went to Blytheville for parts. Tell that after the quake you went to your Grandad’s house in Whistleville. Write that it is located behind the cotton gin. Say that your Grandad had a heart attack but he is still alive.
“When you finish writing those notes, roll them up and put them in the waist band of Sergeant Major bear. Carry him down to the road. He will take it from there.”
I went for water and made oatmeal. I woke Grandad and fed him a half bowl of oatmeal. I helped him walk to the outhouse and back. After I had eaten, I sat next to him and asked,
“Grandad, this is Sunday. We can’t go to church, but would you like to have a little church service here?”
I couldn’t tell what his grunt meant. I walked across the room and picked up the Bible I used to see Granny read. I carried it back and sat down beside him.
“Let’s sing a hymn first. How about “Standing On The Promises”? I’ll stand because that’s a hymn we always stand to sing. You can stay seated.”
While I was singing, he seemed to be humming.
“Okay, while I’m standing I’ll say the Apostles’ Creed.”
After the Apostles’ Creed I sat down.
“I’m going to read some passages from the Bible. First, I’ll read the twenty-third Psalm. Then I’ll read the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.”
He reached over and held my hand while I was reading.
“Now let’s conclude by saying the Lord’s Prayer.”
As I was praying, I would hear an occasional word of it from him. At the end he squeezed my hand and let it fall.
I went to the sink and washed the dishes. When I had finished with them, Grandad was asleep. I began looking for some paper and a pen or pencil. I found a notebook Granny used to give me to scribble in. I tore out three clean sheets. I found some crayons and used a black and red one to write the notes. When I was finished, I went into the loft and found Sergeant Major bear. I rolled the notes and slid the roll into his belt. He didn’t talk to me like Teddy bear. I carried him outside and down to the road that leads to Victoria. I set him down on the road. I walked back toward the house. When I looked back at the road, Sergeant Major bear was gone!

In Victoria, a note was taped to a window pane in the door of an abandoned brick building. The building, which had once served as the police and fire station, had been undamaged in the quake. Another note was attached by a string to the trunk of a tree that had broken just at the point where the main branches began. There was a tree still standing in front of the Cusak’s mobile home. The mobile home had turned over during the earthquake. On the first branch of the tree, visible from the road, sat Sergeant Major bear with the third note rolled and tucked under his belt.
Early that morning, a National Guard helicopter on its way to Osceola flew over Victoria and saw some people on the streets with old wooden houses. A few were waving their arms at the helicopter. Others were lying on the ground. The pilot reported back to the ground controller. He was told to land, give whatever immediate assistance that he and crew could provide. Then he was to report back.
 After the copter landed, they found several women and children. They were frightened and probably needed water and food. They were speaking Spanish and were very emotional. They gave the group the bottles of water and MRE’s (meals ready to eat) they had on board for themselves. Then they walked toward where they had seen bodies on the ground. A teen age girl excitedly beckoned them towards the wounded men. They didn’t have anyone with them who knew any more than just basic first aid. The pilot went back to his copter and reported what they had found. He mentioned that there was a landing strip and it appeared to be undamaged. He was told,
“If you can load any of the injured onto the copter without making their injuries worse, bring them here to Osceola. I’ll send a rescue team out there with some more food, water, and blankets. I’ll send someone who can speak Spanish along with them.”
There were several stretchers on the aircraft. They put the three men who looked worst on the stretchers and loaded them onto the helicopter. There was a teenage girl named Rosalita who spoke English as well asa Spanish.. The pilot said to her,
“Rosalita, please tell the others that another aircraft will be here before night. It will bring blankets, food, water, and some medical people who can help the injured men.”
Several hours later a rescue team landed. They brought the supplies the previous pilot promised. While a nurse was tending to the casualties and assessing their injuries, the other two men went through the town on an ATV they brought. When they stopped at one of the brick houses, they heard someone calling.
“Help us. Please help us,”
Through the rubble they saw a woman who had sought shelter in a bathtub. They pulled beams and sidewall aside to reach her. In the tub with her were two little children. Her back had lacerations. Evidently she had laid herself over the children to protect them.
“Here is a bottle of water. You drink some. Give some to each of them. Don’t let them drink too much at once or they’ll get sick. When you are ready, we’ll carry your children out one at a time. Then we will help you out. There is a nurse who is treating some injured men. When she is through with them, we’ll bring her up here to take care of the cuts to your back.”
They were getting the lady, Mrs. Cartwright, and her children, Jamie and Joy, settled under the broken tree out front when they saw Mary’s note.
“We’d better take this note back to the Command Center.”
“Mrs. Cartwright, we have to get back to looking for casualties. Here is an energy bar. You’ll have to share it with your children. I promise you that the nurse will be here as soon as she is able to do so.”
They went to the other brick house. Looking through the rubble they saw an old woman sitting in a rocking chair. A beam had struck her head and it was at a crazy angle. A younger woman was lying on the kitchen floor. Blood had run out of her mouth and had dried on the linoleum. A refrigerator was lying on top of her chest and stomach.
The headquarters building had one entire side wall missing. Looking into the building they did not see any bodies. There was another building which was back a good way from the road. When they approached it, a man ran out to meet them.
“There are six of us inside. Two are females. None of us is injured. We are hungry and thirsty. We have been roughing it, waiting for help. There was no electric power or phone service. There is no water and the toilets don’t work. Cell phones get no signal. We couldn’t get too far in any direction in a vehicle even with four wheel drive. I ran down when the other helicopter landed. I couldn’t get their attention.”
“We have some women and children that we are going to bring up here so that they don’t have to spend another night outside. It will be tomorrow or the next day before we can evacuate those who are not injured. We will bring the water and food up here. See to it that you share it equally.”
“You mean you are bringing them Mexicans up here?”
“If you have a problem with that, I can seize the building in the name of  the Governor, bring them here, and let you sleep outside!”
Going on down the road they came to the abandoned building.
“Let’s take a look inside this building. If it is all right, we can put the Mexican women and children there and avoid adding to their distress.”
Getting off the ATV Harry tried the door. It was locked. Before breaking a window pane, he tried the old credit card trick. It worked and he was inside. Shining his flashlight around he saw that it was surprisingly clean.
Turning around they went back to the other end of town. The buildings there were all made of tin. They had fallen down in a heap. The machinery inside had been tossed around like toys in the hands of destructive children. Evidence of fire was all around. The most gruesome evidence was charred human bodies. There were at least a dozen. A twenty foot long fertilizer tank looked like a giant can opener had ripped it open. They knew they would not find any survivors there. On the way back to where the nurse was working, they saw a body on the ground near where the water tank had fallen. Was he killed by the falling tank or did he drown?
The nurse had finished with the men she was treating.  Harry took her on the ATV, leaving his partner behind. His partner, Danny, went on foot back to the building where the office workers were staying. He carried six bottles of water with him.
“Okay, here is a bottle of water for each of you. Get that truck you were talking about and go back with me. I’ll give you a couple cases of water, a couple cases of MREs, and some blankets. After that we are keeping the truck for our use now and when we come back.”
Danny gave them the supplies that he promised. Then he went down to where Mrs. Cartwright and her boys were sitting. The nurse had finished treating her wounds and was ready to go back with Harry. Danny told Mrs. Cartright to get into the truck with her children. He took them down to the building and told the office workers that they had company.
He went back to where the Mexican women and children were. He asked Rosalito if they would be willing to stay in the abandoned brick building.
“That was the old police and fire engine station, Senor. We can stay there.”
Harry put the remaining water, MREs, and blankets in the truck. There were some flashlights which he gave to Rosalito and the women.
“Okay, tell everyone to get up into the truck.”
Some of the women started speaking excitedly, protesting.
Rosalito said, “They don’t want to leave the men lying out here alone.”
“The men won’t be lying out here alone. We will be with them until the helicopter comes back. Then we will load them onto the helicopter and it will take them to a hospital.”
Rosalito translated what he had said. The women still looked worried, but climbed into the back of the truck.
Danny reported by radio to the Crisis Command Center:
“This is the rescue team sent to Victoria. We have located twelve ambulatory adults and nine children. One adult has minor injuries. Five of these adults are women who speak no English. Most of the children also do not speak English. One of the children, Rosalito, can speak both Spanish and English. We have put them in two surviving buildings and they have enough food and water for a little more than a day.
“We have five injured men who need to be transported this evening.
“The rescue team also found a note from a child who survived the quake and went to her grandfather’s house several miles away in Whistleville. She reports that there was no damage there but her grandfather had a heart attack and needs medical attention.”
“Roger. We’ll send the next helicopter out to pick you up.”

After the truck left, Sergeant Major bear left his perch and went back to report to Teddy bear and me what I have recorded above. Grandad had gone to bed early. Teddy bear said,
“Sergeant Major bear report back to your post. Mary go up in the loft and bring down British Bobby bear. (British Bobby bear had a blue policeman’s uniform with a shiny badge. He had a night stick hanging from his belt and a tall dome shaped had with a badge.)
“I will send him on ahead to establish some discipline in that building tonight. Tomorrow morning he will order one of the men in that building to drive that truck to here and pick up you and your Grandad and take you to that building so that when a helicopter comes for them, it can take your Grandad to a hospital and take you to a shelter.”

Like Teddy bear and Sergeant Major bear, British Bobby bear was an angel. When he appeared on the scene in Victoria at the building containing office workers, he appeared to them to be an Arkansas State policeman. He told the men to take the shovels that were outside and start digging slit trench latrines on either side of the building and behind the building across the road where the Mexicans were staying. He told them not to think about quitting until he was satisfied they had done a satisfactory job.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 3

         Karl Cusak drove up I-55 to Blytheville. He planned to go to Baker Implement first. That was right off the I-55. Then he would go to Greenway Equipment. From there he would go to the Ford garage. His last stop would be the airport to make an appointment for the Wesson Farm crop dusting plane to have an inspection and tune-up.

He liked to go to Baker’s. Jack Raymond, the salesman/manager grew up on a farm and knew most of the farmers for a hundred miles around. He dressed in jeans and well-worn chambray shirts. He looked and acted like the farmers that came in - some for parts and some just for friendly conversation. Jack always had a pot of coffee, a box of donuts, and a half dozen wooden chairs set up. There were different men every time Karl went in there. They were all equally friendly and ready to offer advice on everything from politics to futures prices on soy beans to how to clean dirt out of a fuel injector. It was Jack who set the tone. Other places were all business. Jack believed that good friends make lasting customers.

Karl wasn’t an Arkansan. That was obvious as soon as he uttered his first sentence. He did have black grease under his finger nails and dirt on his work shoes. Those were his badges of admission to the fraternity of men who work from sun up to sun down ‘toiling the ground, with thorns and thistles tearing their flesh and sweat covering their faces in order to eat their daily bread.’ (with apologies to Genesis 3) They warmly accepted him and his visits there always gave his spirit a lift.

After a donut and a cup of coffee, Karl walked over to the Parts Department and started going down his list. He would buy all the parts on his list that Baker had in stock. For the ones that Baker didn’t stock, he would try Greenway Equipment and the Ford garage. Any parts they didn’t have, he would come back to Baker to order.

He started carrying the parts out to his truck. The ground started shaking, then heaving. He ran around the truck putting it between him and the building. The other men including Jack Raymond, Shorty the Parts man, “Snuffy” Smith, Harry Davenport, and “Slim” Sam Walters came running out of the building and took shelter behind equipment parked on the lot. They saw a car go skittering off of the Interstate. The town sounded like it was being bombed. There were crashing sounds, heavy thuds, sounds of explosions. The sky soon filled with dust, smoke, and flames. Meanwhile, the ground continued to rumble like an unhappy stomach. Occasionally, it would heave up like it was vomiting.

Karl thought of his family. Dana was alone at their trailer. Would someone look out for her? Would the earthquake be this bad there? What about Mary? She was going to the beauty salon in Luxora. Did she make it to there? How bad was the earthquake in Luxora? Would she be able to get back to Victoria? He was worried for them, more than he was scared for himself.

So far his truck had not been damaged, but would the roads be closed? He was glad that he had filled up the gas tank in his truck. Undoubtedly gasoline would be in short supply. The pumps at the gasoline stations run by electricity and the electricity would be off after this quake. In the bed of his truck was a large tank of diesel fuel which he used to refuel the farm equipment out in the field. After what seemed to be an eternity, but probably was ten or fifteen minutes, the shaking and rumbling subsided,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        the men stood up, looked around, and tried to assess the situation. Down the street about a block or so they could see the street was blocked by the debris of a collapsed building. The stretch of interstate highway which they could see had a huge crack and the road way had shifted several feet on one side of the crack.

While they were standing there staring, they heard a shout.

“Hey, you men, I need to talk to you.”

A man in the uniform of Arkansas State Police walked toward them.

“I need the help of all of you, if you are willing. Our first priority is to clear a roadway from the hospital to the airport. I don’t know how much damage was done to the hospital. Even if it has not been damaged at all, it will not be able to handle the large number of casualties that we will have. We have to be able to get casualties to the airport so that we can fly them to cities unaffected by the earthquake. Our second priority is to find someplace suitable for a shelter for those who, like yourselves, are not injured but have no home to return to or cannot return. Will you volunteer?”

Karl and the rest of the men quickly agreed to help.

“All right. You know where the hospital is located and you know where the airport is located. Fire up some of this equipment and make a road. If anyone questions what you are doing, tell them that you are working under the authority of the Governor’s state of emergency proclamation. My name is Corporal Hennessy. This is my card.”

The men huddled. Karl and another man were chosen to operate the bulldozer and backhoe. Another man would drive the dump truck. The others would work on foot with picks and shovels. They soon found out that the task was much more complex than just plowing through rubble and clearing a path for ambulances. They came upon several cars in the middle of the road, engines running, and the drivers in shock, staring straight ahead. There were cars covered in rubble. The men with picks and shovels had to determine if anyone was in the vehicle before Karl shoved it out of the way with the bulldozer.

They worked feverishly, knowing that the hospital needed some way for casualties to be flown to other hospitals and also for casualties to be brought to them. Even if they were being carried on stretchers, there had to be a clear road to the hospital. By three o’clock they had opened the road from Baker’s to the hospital. At the hospital they asked for some food and water. Together with the hospital personnel they planned the route they would open to the airport.

This time they took a nurse and an aide with them to treat casualties that they found or encountered while they were clearing the road. The nurse carried a walkie talkie and several times called for an ambulance to come for persons found by them.

They reached the airport at seven o’clock. They agreed that it would not be safe to work in the dark. In addition to the dump truck, they had brought Karl’s truck because it had a tank of diesel. That was how they refueled the bulldozer and backhoe when necessary. Karl took his truck to the hospital and brought back food for them all. After eating, they all went to sleep in the chairs in the airport lounge.

The next morning they were awakened by planes coming into the airport. The planes brought in emergency supplies that had been packed onto pallets a year or more ago. Disaster response specialists had calculated what supplies and what quantity would be needed in case of a natural disaster in a town the size of Blytheville.

They all piled into Karl’s truck and went back to the hospital. There they met the emergency services coordinator, Mr. Henry. He thanked them for their help. Jack Raymond spoke up,

“Mr. Henry, we need to know what you want us to do today. First we need some breakfast and some coffee. Then, if you are setting up a shelter, we will need some place to sleep tonight. None of us can get back to our farms. Last night we slept sitting up in the plastic lounge chairs at the airport.”

“The first thing that I need for you to do is to clear a road to the fire house, where our disaster supplies and radios are stored.  Then open the road to the high school gymnasium. I understand that it was not damaged. When we can get to the gymnasium, we will set up an emergency shelter there. Those planes will have cots, blankets, clean clothes, water, and food for the emergency shelter. It will have supplies of medicine and bandages for the hospital and emergency medical technicians and paramedics. It will even have all terrain vehicles to use in search and rescue.”

Karl asked, “What about diesel fuel? The tank on the back of my truck will be empty by noon.”

“There will be heavy-duty generators on the planes. We will choose a gasoline station near the hospital and fire station. We will put a generator there so that we can pump gasoline and diesel for vehicles doing disaster work. When the fuel at that station is gone, we will move on to another. Of course, the tanks or pumps at some of the stations will be damaged.

“Before you leave, I want you to give me your names and Social Security numbers. Sooner or later the State of Arkansas will get around to paying you for your work. More importantly, if you are hurt while doing this disaster work, your own insurance may not cover it, but the State will.”

The men worked all day clearing streets and making them passable. They cleared the road to the fire station and the street to the high school. After that they began to clear the main arteries one at a time. When they were clearing a road, they would often pile the debris on someone’s yard. On more than one occasion, someone would come running out of their apparently undamaged house and would start screaming at them to stop piling rocks and cement chunks on their yard.

Time was running out to find survivors and be able to save them. This was the second day since the earthquake. In every block of every street they were coming across survivors. Some were injured and needed care. Others had been cut off by the blocked streets and were disoriented. They were without food and water. Jack Raymond now had a walkie talkie. He would call for a rescue team to come for the person or persons they found.

Their task was to open as many of the main streets of Blytheville as possible. Already there were search teams using all terrain vehicles. When they found a person or a family, they also would call for a rescue team. They had never been trained for this work, but the band of men from the Baker’s coffee klatch was doing a terrific job.

That night Karl found Mr. Henry.

“Mr. Henry, how are we going to be able to find our families?”

“I won’t lie to you. It won’t be easy and it won’t be quick. Right now we are in the search and rescue phase. When authorities decide that there has been a length of time that it isn’t reasonable to expect survivors, we will go into the recovery stage. We will be looking for bodies and trying to identify them.

“At some point the Red Cross will become involved. They will make a list of the survivors here. They will make similar lists in other towns. They will make a list of earthquake casualties in each hospital. From these lists eventually family members find one another. It isn’t easy and it isn’t quick.”

Karl found a place outside where he could be alone. He put his head in his hands and wept.

“Mary, Mary, Dana. Where are you? Will I ever see you again?”

Just then he heard metal banging against metal. He ran to his truck. There was a man grabbing fistsfuls of wrenches from his truck bed tool box. The man was someone they had rescued from a caved in storm drain.

“What are you doing?”

The wrenches dropped to the ground with a clatter and the man ran off. Karl picked them up, opened his truck door and put them behind the seat. Then he got the rest of his tools and put them behind his seat. He remembered seeing on the news during the aftermath of Katrina that crime was rife in the sports stadium that was being used as an emergency shelter.

That evening they passed out clean underwear and socks. They were assigned to groups to take showers in portable showers set up outside. Karl put his wallet, keys and watch in a bandana and carried it into the shower room and left it on a bench where he could see it from the shower. That night he slept with this bundle under his pillow. The next morning he was able to shave for the first time in several days. Normalcy was returning with grudging slowness.

Mr. Henry called a meeting of everyone staying in the shelter.

“We will be asking each of you to give us your names, your age, your addresses, and other family members who lived with you at that address. As the aircrafts begin to have space for others besides the casualties, you are going to be moved to shelters in cities not affected by the earthquake.  The infrastructure in Blytheville is destroyed. The roads, water, and sewer systems, the electricity, the telephones, natural gas lines are all damaged or destroyed. They will all have to be rebuilt before the town will be habitable once more. People who lived in New Orleans had the same experience and now they have moved back.

“Give the clerks your information and then when we have space available on a plane, we will call your names and transport you to the airport. Women and children will go first along with their husbands, if they are together here.”

That last sentence by Mr. Henry caused a number of the women to start crying. Most of the husbands had not been with their families when the earthquake occurred. They had been at work. Whether they had survived or not was unknown. Most of the people in the shelter had one or more family member about whom that they did not know the fate or whereabouts.

Mr. Henry came to Jack Raymond and the Baker’s Coffee Klatch crew.

“I’ll be asking you men to plan on staying here. There are a lot more streets to clear. As you clear streets it makes it easier for the search and rescue teams to get in. In a couple days they will move into the recovery phase. We will need heavy equipment for all of that.”


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 2

Mary Cusak drove into Luxora and went to the Mane Event beauty salon. Sissy was waiting for her. Mary was her first appointment. She liked Mary. Mrs. Cusak was a pleasant person. Not all customers are pleasant. Not even most customers are pleasant. Mary would tell her what she wanted. If Barbara suggested something different or something additional, Mrs. Cusak listened politely, thanked her for the suggestion, but always stayed with her original requests. After Barbara had finished with her, Mary  always thanked her, complimented her work, and tipped her as she paid.
Mary was a woman of medium height, with a trim and shapely body. Her complexion was like buttermilk and her hair was the color of a shade called “dawn on a summer morning” on one of the boxes of hair tint. Mrs. Cusak wanted a shampoo and her hair put up in rollers. After her hair was dry, she wanted her hair combed out. That was all that she wanted today. They made small talk while Sissy was shampooing and rinsing Mary’s hair.
The next appointment, Miss Heloise Brumstel came in early. She sat down in the other chair and showed by her air that she wanted to be waited on without delay. Sissy knew from past experience that nothing she would do for Miss Brumstel would be deemed satisfactory, that she would have to endure a steady flow of criticism, complaints, and malicious remarks about her own efforts and about many other people.
Mary was sitting under the dryer. It was like a chrome, outsize football helmet. The floor began to shake violently. Jars and scissors went flying through the air. Something hit the dryer with a loud bang, no doubt protecting her head from serious injury. The ceiling began to fall with large chunks of material and clouds of dust. There was a loud roar as the walls collapsed and the roof came down. Mary found herself face down on the floor. She had heard the other two women screaming. One scream ended suddenly with a gurgle. There were no more screams. After a while there was an eerie silence, interrupted at times by electrical crackling or water dripping.
Directly in front of her she could see daylight. She began to crawl in that direction. There was no possibility of standing or even kneeling. She kept crawling until she reached the broken out front window. Just as she reached the ledge of the window, the roof above her began splintering and cracking. A bunch of debris fell down burying her legs. She was trapped on the very cusp of escape. There was no point in crying out. There was no one on the street.
The sun rose higher in the sky. She began to feel like a person out on the desert with no sign of life or of water. Occasionally she would hear isolated sounds in the distance. The street on which the beauty salon was located must be blocked. Were there other people similarly trapped? Every once in a while she would call out. It was a futile effort and she was getting weaker. She passed out. 
Two men on an all-terrain vehicle saw her bright red head hanging over the ledge of a window. They didn’t know if she was dead or not. One of them came up and reached to feel her neck for a pulse. She awoke and whispered, “Help me. Please help me.”
The two men tried to pull her out but were unable. They called on their radio. The dispatcher told them that he would log the location and a rescue team would be sent as soon as one was available. In the meantime, they were to continue their mission of looking for survivors. One of the men came back to Mary. He gave her a bottle of water and an energy bar and told her that a rescue team would come as soon as one was available. She saw them roar off and turn down the street toward the rear of the building. Her heart sank, and she cried. The sun shone bright and the temperature rose with it. Mary became aware of foul smells that changed whenever the breeze changed direction.
She began to hear loud sounds of materials crashing, engines straining. Occasionally, a helicopter flew overhead. She nursed the bottle of water and made the energy bar last as long as she could. By evening exhaustion and despair took over. She passed out or dozed off. She was awakened by a chorus of voices.
“I’ll check her vital signs.”
“Holy cow. How are we going to get her out from under all that debris?”
“When we start moving the debris, that roof is liable to trap one of us.”
Mary heard all this and prayed, “Lord, please don’t let them give up. Use them to get me out of here.”
The men worked one at a time. Most of the time they had to use their hands. The space was too tight to use a shovel. Often their work caused Mary pain but she squinched her eyes and gritted her teeth. At one point someone put a tourniquet on her right leg and then the pain was unbearable. The same person wrote on her forehead with a magic marker. She could smell the ink. After what seemed an eternity, one of the men said, “I think that has got it. Let’s try to pull her out.”
While they were pulling her out and then carrying her on a stretcher, Mary was in tremendous pain and passed out before they loaded her onto the ambulance. The woman, a paramedic, hung a bag of saline solution. In normal circumstances, she would be talking to a doctor at the hospital. The hospital itself had suffered considerable damage. They were taking casualties to a large hangar at the Osceola airport.  There were some doctors and nurses there doing what they could with scant supplies. From there casualties were being flown to hospitals away from the earthquake zone. Little Rock hospitals were already filled to their emergency capacity. That meant they had beds in all the hallways. They were now flying patients from Blytheville and Osceola to Fayetteville, Arkansas, Monroe, Louisiana, and even Tulsa, Oklahoma.
When Mary regained consciousness, a doctor and a nurse were looking down at her.
“Clean up her legs the best you can. Give her whatever antibiotic we have left. Tag her as urgent. Get her on the next plane. It will take all we can do, all they can do, and a lot of help from God to save her legs.”
After the doctor left, the nurse knelt down beside her.
“What is your name, sweetie?”
“Mary Catherine Cusak.”
“Do you live in Luxora?”
“No, Victoria.”
 “What is your husband’s name?”
 “Karl Ruderich Cusak”
“Do you have any children?”
“Just one, a daughter, Dana Delania Cusak.”
“Are you allergic to penicillin?”
“Have you had anything to eat?”
“Just a candy bar and a bottle of water this morning.”
Mary had drifted off to sleep when the nurse returned. There was a volunteer with her. The nurse gave Mary a shot and then said,
“This is Karen. Karen is going to feed you some soup. Eat slowly and don’t get choked. If you feel nauseous let her know.”
After eating the soup, Mary drifted off to sleep again. When she awoke, she was being moved onto a litter and she felt sharp pain while she was being moved and then dull pain at every bounce and bump as she was moved out to the plane. When the plane took off, the noise was unbearable. In the air the plane bounced occasionally which caused more pain. Landing was a fiery storm of pain. She passed out.
The next time she was conscious, Mary was in a hospital bed. A nurse leaned over her and said,
“Mary Cusak, welcome to Monroe, Louisiana. We have some wonderful doctors. They are going to do their best to make it possible to walk out the doors on your way back to Arkansas. Some aides are going to bathe you. I know you are probably hungry. You have a fever, so we will have to just give you some liquids until we get your temperature down.”
Mary knew that the aides were as gentle as they could be, but it hurt every time they moved her and even more every time they touched her legs. Maybe it was a good sign that she had feeling in her legs.
After she had been bathed and was in a hospital gown, a doctor came to see her.
“Mrs. Cusak, I am your surgeon, Dr. Jacob Kubicki. I won’t lie to you. You have a serious injury to your legs. We will x-ray your legs and then maybe take an MRI. If any of your bones were crushed, that would have sent a poisonous toxin through your body. The tourniquet was to retard its progress. Even if none of them is crushed, you could have broken bones. If so, we will have to immobilize the broken bones. Because of the cuts and abrasions on both of your legs, we can’t put on a plaster cast. I want you to know the complications we face. After the x-rays and maybe an MRI, I’ll know a lot more and I’ll speak with you more at that time.”
After she had had a cup of jello and some bouillion, a nurse came to draw blood for the laboratory. Another nurse and aide came with a gurney to take her to X-ray. After several x-rays were taken, they wheeled her out into the hallway.
Not long afterward, Dr. Kubicki came to stand beside her.
“Mrs. Cusak, I have examined the x-rays and studied the results of your blood work. Your left leg is crushed about two inches above the ankle. The crushing injury has sent a poisonous toxin into your blood stream. We must amputate your leg to remove the crushed portion. Then we will use dialysis and antibiotics to attack the poison already in your blood stream. I need for you to sign this form giving us permission to perform the amputation. If we do not proceed now, you will die from the injury in a few days’ time.”
Mary would have screamed if she had the energy. Inside her head there was a primal scream going up and down in pitch like an air raid siren. Physically all that she could manage was a pitiful sob. The doctor was holding a pen and a clip board with a form she had to sign. Signing a paper like signing a note at the bank, except that this time, after she signed, they would take their pound of flesh right away. When she hesitated, the doctor asked, “Do you have any questions about the surgery that I can answer?” She shook her head and signed the paper.
   They rolled her down to the operating room. A nurse started an IV and another nurse gave her a shot and told her to start counting backward from 25. Before she reached 18, she was asleep. When she woke up in the recovery room, she was confused. Someone told her that the surgery went well. Later, someone told her that they would be taking her to ICU in an hour or so. Gradually she became more conscious of her surroundings and remembered that she had agreed to let them amputate part of her leg.
She remembered the first words that were said to her when she was brought to this hospital, ‘Mary Cusak, welcome to Monroe, Louisiana. We have some wonderful doctors. They are going to do their best to make it possible to walk out the doors on your way back to Arkansas.’

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 1

This is the third novel I have posted on this blog. The other two began in August 2012(CHANGE OF LIFE) and January 2014 (ESCAPE). Each novel is posted one chapter each week. This is the first chapter of EARTHQUAKE.
My name is Dana Delania Cusak. I was sitting in the lawn swing on a beautiful summer day. It would have had a certain beauty even if it were raining. This was the first day of summer vacation from school, Friday, June 13. People say that Friday the thirteenth is an unlucky day. How could the first day of summer vacation be unlucky in any possible way?

We live in Victoria, Arkansas. It’s on the map, but I can’t see how it can be called a town. There are no stores, no post office, no gas station. It is Wesson Farm. Wesson Farm is huge, 8,200 acres. The office buildings and equipment buildings in Victoria are all Wesson Farm buildings. There is even an air strip for the planes that spray the fields with herbicides and insecticides.

There are two beautiful brick houses in the town occupied by the farm manager and the 
accountant and their families. There are about a dozen old wooden houses that once were nice houses but now are run-down. These are occupied by field hands. Most of the houses have a half dozen field hands or more living together. A few of the old houses have families.
Our family moved here last year. We live in a mobile home. 

My father is a “cracker-jack” mechanic as he describes himself. He keeps the equipment and vehicles of Wesson Farm running. We moved here because my mother’s mother died last year. Her father is now alone in his A frame cottage in Whistleville. He has a bad heart and has had several episodes this year. Mom checks in on him every evening. 

Whistleville is just several miles down the road from Victoria. All that are there are a cotton gin, an old mobile home, and Grandad’s home. Grandad built the A frame cottage himself in the woods behind the cotton gin.

This morning my Mom went to Luxora to a beauty salon to have her hair styled for the weekend. We go to church every Sunday in Lepanto. Mom says she wants to look as well-groomed as the ladies who live in town. My Daddy went to Blytheville this morning to pick up a number of parts that he needs for different machines and vehicles. He will have to go to several places because no dealer carries parts for every type of truck, tractor, and farm equipment used on the farm.

Swinging back and forth in the warm air was about to put me to sleep. Suddenly the ground heaved up and the swing went backward. I crawled out and the ground kept shaking and heaving. I saw the office buildings, the brick houses and the metal buildings collapse with a roar. Trees began to fall. As they broke there was a sound like a bomb or a heavy rifle’s report.
There were explosions down the road in the vicinity of the metal buildings. There were large tanks in that area. The air was filling with dust and smoke. I could see tall flames of fire. Trees were continuing to fall.

I ran away from all the calamity. I ran into the fields where there were no buildings or trees. The ground was no longer level. It had “wrinkles”, gullies, and cracks. Occasionally, the ground would rumble or shake. I turned back to look at the town. The cloud of debris and smoke was so thick that I couldn’t see a thing. I continued on my way, walking in the field but following the road. I wanted to get to my Grandad.

I walked until I came to SR 181 which crosses SR 158 which runs through Victoria and passes the road to Whistleville. I could see that the field beyond that road was filling with water. I decided to walk on SR 158. There wouldn’t be any traffic coming from Victoria because the road was blocked with trees and maybe other debris.

As I was walking along, suddenly I was overcome with what was happening. I looked for someplace to sit down, but I couldn’t find anyplace. In the end I sat down in the road and started crying. I don’t know how long I sat there. Then I thought of something my Grandad always says, “Crying doesn’t fix the bucket.” I don’t know what it means and he has never told me. I started giggling. I got up and started back down the road reciting over and over, “Crying doesn’t fix the bucket.”

It was dusk by the time I reached Whistleville. I went behind the cotton gin searching for Grandad’s cottage. It was dark and the door was locked. I felt around under the steps for the key hidden there, Inside the cottage it was dark. Gradually my eyes adjusted and I could see the outline of objects. I heard a gruff voice,

“Dana, I’m so glad you have come. I was expecting your mother. Come here to my chair and I’ll give you my flashlight. I want you to look for water and two aspirin tablets. I think that I have had a heart attack. The water will be in a shiny metal bucket. Never use it for anything but water. If there is no water in it, the well is outside.” 

I found the bucket of water. There were tin cups in a “Hoosier” cabinet and that is where I found a bottle of aspirins. I took the water and aspirins to him. Then I returned to the bucket and greedily drank two cups.

He called me back to him.

“Pull that chair up beside me so you can turn the flashlight off and save the batteries. Tomorrow, you will have to look around to find where everything is located. There are oil lanterns to use so you won’t use up the flashlight batteries. I expect that you felt that earthquake. You can tell me more about it tomorrow. We may be cut off from the rest of the world for weeks or even longer. Life out here is pretty primitive. You will have to learn a lot in a short period of time just to survive.

“For right now, turn the flashlight on again and help me walk out to the outhouse. I am awfully wobbly since that attack.”

He held onto my shoulder heavily. I was afraid one of us would fall on the steps. On the ground he directed me to the outhouse. I waited outside and when he came out I supported him while he walked back to the cottage. When he was back in his chair, I returned to the outhouse. When I came back into the dwelling, I asked him,

“Do you have a bucket of water for washing?”

“Yes, it’s under the sink. There is a bar of soap and a towel by the sink. Tomorrow morning first thing, fill both the buckets out at the well. I usually make oatmeal for breakfast. You’ll have to bring in some wood for the stove and build a fire in it in order to cook the oatmeal or anything else.

“Tonight, I am going to sleep sitting up in this chair. That is what you are supposed to do if you have a heart attack. You can sleep on my bed over there. Tomorrow, go up in the loft. You remember that when Maud was alive, when you came to visit, you would sleep up in the loft while your parents camped out in a tent outside. Maud had a different stuffed animal for you every time you came to visit. She kept all of them up in the loft for you. You’ll have to take the bed clothes from the bed in the loft outside and shake them out. They really should be washed, but that will have to wait until you have learned to do other things. My guess is that we are going to be cut off from the rest of the world for weeks or more.”

I went over to his bed, took off my shoes and socks, jeans and blouse and laid down on his bed. The bed smelled of sour sweat, but I was so tired that I fell asleep almost immediately.
When I awoke the next day the sun was shining brightly into the cottage. I could see the interior clearly. I put on my clothes and shoes, picked up the two buckets, and went outside. I stopped at the outhouse first, then went on to the well. Filled with water the two buckets were too heavy for me to carry, I carried them into the house one at a time. Then I went back outside to get some wood. I had built campfires so I knew to pick some small pieces to get the fire started.
I found wooden matches in the Hoosier and started a fire in the cook stove. After it was hot I put what seemed to be the right amount of water in a pan. When the water was simmering, I “guess-stimated” the amount of oats to put in. I found some raisins and added a dozen or so to the oatmeal.

Grandad did not seem to have awakened. When the oatmeal was ready, I put some in a bowl and took it to him.

“Grandad, I made some oatmeal. See if you can eat some.”

I put a spoonful of oats to his mouth. He opened his eyes and grunted. He ate that spoonful and I lifted another spoonful to his mouth. With patience I was able to get him to eat the half bowl I had taken to him. After a while he seemed to revive.

“Outside is a large wooden chest the size of a freezer. Inside there are jars of food that Maud canned from our garden. If you use any of that food, remember that it must be simmered or boiled for at least twenty minutes to be sure of killing all the germs. I haven’t felt like cooking the last several weeks. Your mother would bring me something to eat when she came in the evenings.”

When I went up into the loft, I saw all the stuffed animals that Granny had given me. I immediately grabbed the teddy bear and hugged him to me.

“Hello, old friend, do you remember all the conversations we had when I was supposed to be sleeping? I need someone to talk to now.”

I gathered up the bedclothes and pillows and carried them outside. I found places on fence rails and tree stumps to air out the sheets, blankets and pillows.

In the loft I also found some of Granny’s clothes. She was a small woman. I think some of them might fit me. I will need a change of clothes, if only to wear when I am washing my own clothes. I’ll ask Grandad if it is all right with him for me to wear some of Granny’s clothes.

I remembered the lanterns. I went looking for them and for lamp oil. I found them together in a large metal tool box. Evidently Grandad was afraid of their fire hazard.

For lunch I found a package of dehydrated chicken noodle soup. I fixed it and took it to Grandad. He took a long time but he ate all I gave him.

After lunch I walked out to the road. I looked toward Victoria and saw nothing. I listened for a long time but I heard nothing. If there were still fires or smoke it must be blowing in the other direction.

I tried to straighten up Grandad’s home. When I was finished it looked much better. I thought that it might lift Grandad’s spirits. He did seem to have gained some strength. Maybe it was eating the food. I still had to walk him out to the outhouse but he did not lean so heavily on me. He partly supported himself.

I brought the bed clothes inside, took them to the loft, and made up the bed. It felt good to have my own bed. I made a point of putting my teddy bear on the pillow. I had asked Grandad about using Granny’s clothes. He said that it was all right with him. So I tried on some of her clothes that I could use and they fit me comfortably.

For supper I opened a jar of sweet potatoes and cooked them for twenty-five minutes to be sure. There was only one clock in the house. It wasn’t running when I found it. There was no way of setting it to the correct time. I wound it up and just guessed at the time. It’s usefulness was for knowing when I had cooked the canned food long enough.

I tried to stay busy because, when I was idle, the memory of what had happened yesterday would take over my thoughts. I saw the buildings crumbling and the flames shooting high into the air. I was glad that Dad and Mom weren’t in Victoria when it happened. Where were they? Had the earthquake also been in Luxora and Blytheville? When would I see them again? How can I let them know I am alive and that I am at Grandad’s?

When night time came I went up to the loft and Grandad slept in his bed. I wore one of Granny’s nightgowns. As soon as I was in bed, I hugged my teddy bear. I started talking to him just like I used to do. I told him how scary the earthquake had been. If I had not been out in the yard swing, I would have been in the mobile home when it rolled on its side and crumbled. I thought of all the people who were in those buildings when they collapsed or were in the area of the tanks that exploded and burned. It was so horrible and the horror became greater every time the memory returned. I told teddy that I wondered how my parents would know how to find me. Of course, that is if they are all right.

The teddy bear answered me!

“Have you told all these things to God? Have you prayed for His help for your Grandad, for your parents, and for yourself?”

“No, I haven’t prayed a word during all these troubles.”

“You pray every night at home.”

“How do you know that? How can a teddy bear talk?”

“Teddy bears generally cannot talk. Angels can make themselves appear to be human so they can just as easily make themselves appear to be a teddy bear. I am an angel whom God has sent to help you when you need help. So I think the first order of business now is for you to pray before you fall asleep. Thank God for all the ways He has helped you so far. Pray for your Grandad’s heart condition and for your parents’ safety. Ask Him for your own needs.”

“I will. Thank you.”

I got out of bed and knelt down to pray.