It wasn't heat lightning. The creek was twice its size, and fast, like they were supposed to take it seriously. Daniel’s father had explained the flood plain three Sundays ago.
“We’re in a dip,” he’d said. “The creek swells.”
Daniel had begged to end guitar lessons with his father, so dinner was demanded, every Sunday, and the new smell of his house was never going to go away.
By the time Daniel had done the dishes, because this was now his job, by the time he left a crust of ketchup on one plate on purpose, the creek had taken over the square of backyard, pale muddy water rushing under the neighbors’ big brown fence.
They stood at the window until it got dark and Daniel could see both their faces in the glass. His father had that beard, but they looked alike, especially when the light took away their skin but left their features.
The phone rang, and it was Mom worrying. Daniel had school tomorrow. Middle school was different and he actually had homework on the weekends. He obviously couldn’t walk home in this. Was his father going to give him a ride or was she going to have to?
His father turned on the outside light, and he was really genuinely smiling. He ruffled Arrow’s ears, and the dog nipped at the air where he had been.
“She’s coming,” he said. “Now we have more time to watch the storm.”
A small laundry basket—a laundry basket for babies, Daniel thought—floated into the yard from the neighbors on the left. Inside it was a stuffed bear, blue, a claw machine win, black thread smile and plastic eyes staring straight ahead, so it was enjoying the ride but not taking it all in. It kept on its path until it bumped against the other neighbors’ fence. It pushed back and bumped again and again, until it found its way to the larger space where the creek originally existed. It passed under.
Arrow didn’t tremble at thunder like other dogs.
Christy Crutchfield writes and teaches in Western Massachusetts. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Mississippi Review, elimae, Necessary Fiction, PANK, and others. She is an Associate Editor for Keyhole Magazine. "Flood Plain" is part of a collection of connected stories called "How to Catch a Coyote."