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MUSED Literary Magazine.
Non Fiction

Isidoro: September, 2002

Fiona St Clair

The ancient flamboyant outside the casa principal creaks and groans and then, wrenching its huge roots from the earth, collapses with a shudder, neatly missing my old truck and the building in which I stand. I watch from the arched doorway of the stone corredor.

What else will go down? What will remain of two years of work when this is over?

The 130-miles-per-hour winds are stripping the leaves from the surrounding trees and causing the old wooden doors of the hacienda to rattle and tremble. Rain and flying debris are obliterating any view of the chapel, the casitas, or the huge factory building, though they are only a few hundred yards away.

With a last glance at the dark purple-gray sky, I retreat to my bedroom, fastening the extra latches I installed on the door that afternoon. I have done what I can. There will be no more excursions outside until the hurricane has passed.

The huge room, with its six-foot thick stone walls and barrel-vaulted ceiling, is totally dark. The power flashed, dimmed, and then died in the first hour, and there will be no moon or stars tonight. Flashlight batteries have to be saved, and enough wind comes through the cracks in the old doors and the high, round windows to make candles impossible.

I grope my way to the iron bedstead and join the two dogs, already burrowed under the covers to wait this out. Peík and her pup are sheltering in one of the casitas. The deafening roar of the wind and rain fills the room and seems to push at the massive walls. The dogs whimper and move closer to me. Sleep will be impossible.

So this is the trial by water. Hmmf. I havenít bothered to remove my layers of wet clothing or my work boots and lie quietly in the dark. I have been through some near misses in the Caribbean and know the drill, but this is the first time I have dealt with a direct-hit hurricane on my own. Have I done all that I could? It is quite different to secure six building than to anchor and tie down a boat in a mangrove hurricane hole.

I sense rather than hear the wind shift to another quarter, and over the sound of the storm, a high-pitched scream of metal against metal begins from the garden behind the house. Ah, the windmill. What was I supposed to have done about the windmill? It hardly matters. The abrupt and unpredicted inland shift of this hurricane has given me only five hours to prepare, and with six buildings to secure, the windmill is the least of it. The hacienda has undoubtedly withstood many hurricanes in its three hundred and fifty years, but I wonder about the geometry of the old stone chimney that rises some sixty feet behind the house.

If it goes, in which direction will it fall? Is it tall enough to fall against the building in which I have taken shelter?

Something heavy hits the wooden shutters of the bathroom windows. At least there is no glass to break.

As the wind shifts again, now coming from the other side of the house, a torrent of water shoots some twenty feet into the room from the ojuelo, the high, glassless granary window. Should have thought of that one.

The scream from the windmill stops suddenly. The blades are gone. Deplumed at last!

Laughing, I struggle to my feet, dislodge the dogs, throw the sodden covers to the floor, and begin to drag the heavy mattress to the next room.

Ay, tah ma!

Though I have regained my strength and stamina in these months in Mexico, my muscles ache from the dayís frenzied work, and as I haul the unwieldy mattress, I realize that my hands are bruised, bleeding, and raw.

I remember the bottle of brandy on the dining room sideboard. Might as well, if I can find it in the dark.

Itís a long time until daylight.