By Erin Jamieson
There may or may not have been warnings in the months before. Birds
scattered like confetti in too blue skies, the sun oddly faded, like worn
jeans. Women and men leaving their spouses and returning with AKC
registered poodles or sailboats for lakes hours away. Even when the
school children started speaking languages no one had taught them and
dogs befriended wilds squirrels, no one was willing to admit anything had
The water tasted fine. really it did, even though everyone had to pretend
not to mind murky sediment or clay like paste that stuck on teeth. always
though, it was the smell that became hardest to ignore a smell that could
not merely be classified as putrid, but actually burned nostrils, seeped
into fragile skin pores. It was a smell no one could grow accustomed to
though towards the end it was the smell of homes and moth-hole
sweaters and family heirlooms.
Still, it was important to welcome it like a long lost relative. It was
important to accept it as a natural part of life.
Bread, then milk and eggs. the water bottle section was next, and when
that was gone, customers fought for off brand soda and seltzer and
cheap beer. some were smart enough to raid the canned goods first,
reaching for pineapple and fruit cocktail mixes they normally would never
think to buy.
But as parents raided the juice and stocked up on canned tuna and
chicken and beans, children raced each other for Lucky Charms, Fruit
Loops, Frosted Flakes--all the forbidden cereals, dumping them in carts
of parents who no longer worried about things like cavities.
Or maybe no one was preparing. out of ignorance or denial or need,
people went about their lives, going to work, cooking dinner, paying bills.
the water and the strange smells and persistently gray skies were
nothing to note because after a while, these things came to be part of
& in the moments before there was silence almost a true silence.
families huddled together in basements with a load still churning the
washer, sharing a meal of cold canned green beans and sugared yams.
Some read, some prayed, and some did nothing at all.
Erin Jamieson received an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University of Ohio. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in After the Pause, Into the Void, Flash Frontier, Mount Analogue, Blue River, The Airgonaut, Evansville Review, Canary,Shelia-Na-Gig, and Foliate Oak Literary, among others.