Hanging On

“What is it, Grandpa?”

“Oh…”

“Whoa! Here, here… sit down, Grandpa, sit down…. yeah, just there… sit down, please…”

“I’m… I’m sorry, Landry… I…”

“Nothing to be sorry for, Grandpa– It was a pretty long hike up here, huh? I’m the one who’s sorry – I should’ve thought…”

“No, Landry, that’s not it. The walk… the walk was fine – I’m not that old yet…”

(Laughs) “I know, Grandpa… I just thought maybe…”

“I know – it’s ok. I’m fine, really. It’s just…. I didn’t expect…. that…”

“Didn’t expect what?”

“That… I didn’t expect… That.”

“What, Grandpa? The tree? That tree?”

“Yes.”

“But, Grandpa – that’s why I brought you up here – to see that tree.”

“You did?”

“Well, yeah – I mean, I thought you’d like it.”

“Oh…”

“I love it out here, Grandpa… and I thought you would too. That tree – it just, I don’t know – it just… well, it speaks to me almost. I mean, sometimes I come out here just to sit and stare at that tree – especially on Sundays –when we’ve had a big night at the restaurant on Saturday and my head’s about to explode from all the noise and stuff – on Sunday mornings, I’ll get up before anyone else is awake and come out here to drink coffee by myself. Just me and the tree… crazy, huh?”

“No… not crazy.”

“Grandpa… I’m sorry. I thought you’d like the tree. I didn’t mean to upset you… let’s go…”

“No, Landry… no… I’m ok now… It was just that I…. I didn’t expect. Not here. It reminded me of another time… another place where I saw a tree like that… all by itself… surrounded by water. A little tree just hangin’ on while the rest of the world floated away.”

“Oh, Grandpa… oh damn… I’m sorry… I never thought… of course – Katrina…”

“Yes… Katrina.”

“Damn… come on, Grandpa, let’s go – I’m so sorry…”

“No, Landry, no – let’s stay a while. You’re right – it’s beautiful here – I can see why you like to come here. Sit down here beside me for a while.”

“You sure, Grandpa?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Well… ok…” (Landry sits)

“You don’t remember anything about it, do you? About the storm?”

“No, Grandpa. I mean, I remember shouting and crying and being in a car for a long time, but, no, I don’t remember anything concrete. I was only four.”

“Yes, I know… and fifteen years is a long time. Even for me.”

(long pause)

“But no matter what, I’ll never forget that tree. It was on Magazine Street. We’d put you and your mother in a car to Houston before the worst of the storm hit. I’d tried to get your grandma to go with you – but she wouldn’t. ‘I didn’t work half my life to build my own business just to run away from it when trouble comes,’ she said. So, there we were – on Magazine street, hangin’ onto the wrought iron that covered her store front as the water rose and rose and rose – higher and higher – carryin’ people and animals and furniture and cars past us in a great rush. I was hangin’ onto your Grandma – had my body pressed up against hers, hangin’ onto the bars on either side of her, tryin’ to hold us both above the water, usin’ that little tree to gauge just how high it was climbin’…”

(a pause)

“Then, all of a sudden, I felt your grandma go kinda limp under me… kinda limp against my belly. And I pressed harder – the water was in such a rush now – so strong – I thought this must be what it’s like to be right in the river. And I guess, really, we were. I was yellin’ in her ear, “Matherene – you hang on! Don’t you let go – Goddamnit, don’t you let go!” But, we’d been hangin’ there for so long – for hours, I guess – with no help and no end in sight – and I knew she was gettin’ tired…”

“Grandpa… you don’t have to…”

“I knew she was tired… and I tried to hold her up – with my body… my legs… I didn’t dare let go of the grate – no way could I hold us both up with one hand – so I just kept yellin’ at her – yellin’ in her ear… ‘Don’t let go, Matherene! don’t let go! Think of Claire… think of little Landry!” And I’d feel her tighten up, sturdy up, hold on for a little bit longer… But, in the end, there was just no use… no use…”

“You mean, she let go?”

(a pause. Grandpa stares at the tree.)

“It happened so fast. One minute she was there, under me… the weight of her so familiar, under me… just like it had been for thirty years almost. Then it was just… gone. She was gone. And all I could see was water… rain… water… and that tree.   That poor little tree. Hangin’ on. Still just hangin’ on. Just like that one out there…. like me… Just hangin’ on…”

© s rogers 2008