THE FLASH FLOOD

MEXICO from an old journal

We’d driven into Mexico at Mexicali in the heat of August, with a desert thunderstorm on the southern horizon. This was the adventure I’d wanted to share with my husband since our son was born six months earlier, our summer trip when I could at last offer to my man some of the exhilaration of travel that I so loved.

The desert sunset was glorious over the craggy hills, the plants renewed with greenness from summer storms. After dark we had a spectacular lightning show. With little traffic and only a few drops of rain, we raced along. Our boy was in his bed in the back seat while I napped. All the windows were down, the only source of a cooling breeze. I woke several times, took my little boy in my arms and slept again.

I awoke again as we slowed down.  A line of vehicles, hundreds of cars and trucks had stopped on the right side of the road.  People milled around. There was no accident, apparently. We didn’t know what was going on.  Was this some sort of police inspection? David was impatient and as soon as a couple of big buses had passed in the opposite direction, coming toward us, he went on around the stopped cars. Our baby slept in my arms.

Ahead, a bus plowed through a stream that crossed a low place in the road. In the headlights of the bus and our car, it looked like rushing muddy water about a foot deep. We drove in and made it safely through with no problem. It seemed as if we’d come to the far side as the water grew shallow again. David shook his head. “Chicken hearted Mexicans. That was nothing.” I agreed.

But then we stalled. David said, “Let’s get out and push, before we get run down by one of these trucks. Help me.” I almost dumped the baby into his bed. We both took off our shoes and got out to push. A big truck was coming up fast right behind us. The river was rushed over the road, moving fast and about ten inches deep. I got back in to steer. David jumped up onto the hood and directed the truck driver. I felt the truck bump against the rear of our car. We began moving slowly.

The water grew deeper. My heart was pounding. David screamed, “Left, go left. It’s not as deep.” I felt loose dirt under the wheels as we slid right with the current.  The brown flood was halfway up the door. I imagined the car floating off the pavement and into the black night with Chris and me inside. Spinning in the flash flood, we’d never make it.

For an instant I thought of grabbing Chris and jumping out, abandoning the car before it was too late. But then the truck bumped again and we began moving left. My heart was in my throat. I wanted to scream, “Let us out of here.” My mouth was so dry I could hardly swallow. I held tight to the steering wheel, my foot pressing hard on the clutch.

It grew shallower. I saw bright lights shining in the water and the silhouettes of people sitting on cars and trucks, all yelling or cheering.  I could not tell which.  We were coming out.  We started up the bank, the truck still pushing us, our engine dead.

We were out. I took the first breath in minutes. People were clapping along the roadside.

There was a town up ahead. We could see a neon sign for a motel.  I let out a long groan of relief.  The truck driver continued to push us.   David had asked him to get us as far as the motel, the driver seemed to agree that would be smart.

After we’d gone a couple of blocks, David appeared, running along side. He shouted, “Try to start it.” That seemed like a far-fetched idea. But it started on the second try. I revved the engine. “I can’t believe it started,” I shouted to him over the noise of the truck engine right behind us. “I can’t believe we came through that raging torrent and the car starts.”

I pulled over and stopped the car. We both ran back to thank the driver again.  David called to the driver, “Muchas gracias.” The driver was grinning.  David tried to pay him but he refused money.  We shook his hands and thanked him again with sincere heartiness.

With adrenalin still pulsing through our bodies, we set off for the motel. Our baby was still snoozing, quite oblivious, in his car bed in the back seat.

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