Days before the Great Flood, Lloyd Riggs, the town drunk, vanished—
an empty of Wild Turkey, a black leather wing tip (sole
nearly worn away) and a thread-barren sock left on the shore. My parents
suspected that Lloyd, who slept on a bench, slipped
and was tugged under in moments. Though teams dragged the river’s
muddy bed, when the deluge hit downtown, his body
hadn’t been found. Lloyd and I shared a secret. He often followed me
home from school. Like a large lobster, glassy-eyed,
his arms and legs jerked as he stumbled down sidewalks into streets. He never
touched me—but the way he stared, scared and strangely excited me,
so I never told. Days passed. Waves shattered second-story windows
in landmark buildings. Chimneys floated in the distance.
While others canoed to salvage papers and pets, our hilltop home remained
safe, Watergate’s trials just starting to seep through the 17-inch
black-and-white television screen. Mornings I’d walk to the corner, terrified
but hoping his body would surface. Evenings we’d watch
the news … In my dreams, Watergate and the flood intertwined—
Lloyd (confiding he dove in to escape) now had Nixon’s face
and shopped beneath twelve feet of water for a fishing rod at Kresge’s
Five & Dime. Dog-paddling through aisles where
white-whiskered catfish swam: he, G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord, Jr.
stole cans of tuna, silly-putty eggs and Day-Glo yo-yo’s …
When the river receded, his body was discovered mangled near a dam.
I’ve no idea where he’s buried. I only remember that the air grew thick
as a Ted Drew’s custard shake, Watergate’s waterline continued to rise,
and perched on Lloyd’s bench, I flirted with undercurrents—unsettling—
planning my own escape, unable to fathom what I’d take with me
and what would stay submerged.