It was a dark, raw night. Fear leaked from every lightpost. Down under the city you knew something was waiting. And it was.

Karl was in his basement, knee-deep in water. It wouldn't drain. It just wouldn't. Why won't it drain? It's been sunny for two weeks. He had tried spooning it out, using a dehumidifier, carrying it out, thimbleful by painstaking thimbleful. What would ever work?

Karl had seen it start, on Thursday night, and at first he thought it was cute. Sure, it had ruined an original Picasso, the hat Sinatra gave him in Vegas, and the only copy of his birth certificate, but it was fun to see his angelfish scooting along on the floor. He knew he should have unplugged the television, and when his son jumped into the water playfully and was instantly electrocuted, he started regretting his carelessness. But it was on the third day of the flood, when the water level reached his ten-year collection of TV Guides, that he realized the gravity of the situation. "Everyone out!" he shouted, as he grabbed an inflatable Rush Limbaugh buouy. "Pool hours are over." That day, Karl lost a lot of friends on the block.

But why wouldn't it drain now? ("There are droughts in India" he had said to the water one night, hoping to coax it where it was actually desired. But the water wouldn't listen to reason.) There was a drain in the floor; that was how the water got in. So why wouldn't it leave the same way?

Karl paced around his beloved basement, knee-deep in water that shouldn't be that color, searching with his toes for the drain. At the same time, he kept smiling and looking around, saying "I see you Allen Funt" in case he was being televised. Allen would have to be a real jerk, he thought to himself, to keep this joke going for 5 days straight, but then again, he was getting older, and you know how mean old people can get. A bump on his toe. Was that the drain? He moved his foot around. No, it bit him; drains don't bite. Karl kept moving through the water.

On the eighth day, Karl gave up. He'd been over every inch of that basement 10 times, but no drain, and the water had kept rising all this time. Eventually, he thought, the whole basement would fill with water; the good side would be that he'd finally have a pool for his sharks (Mack, Willie and Mrs. Willoughby), and then he'd have the bathtub to himself. But all his earthly possessions would be soaked.

Exhausted, Karl ended his search and went outside for a breath of air. He put away the gardening items he'd been using before all this started. He raked up the weeds he'd pulled and he turned off the six hoses he'd left running next to the house.

Then he sat down and mused aloud, "I'd give my left shirtsleeve for that flooding to go away."

Miraculously, a day later the water was completely gone. Karl was very happy. He was VERY happy. But he kept his shirtsleeve.

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If I Had a Porch
1995 John Cady & his Lounge Life Press