From the Sky - Part XII

Filling the Lake...

As you know, my friend, when the rains move into Walnutwood from Lake Erie, they come hard. Sheets of water pour from the sky, drenching the ground and filling rain gutters. The downspouts on houses roar softly. Small streams overflow, the river grows angry, and low-lying areas flood. When my aunts were young women, Lake Tarentella would form in the street after a hard rain. The deepest point was at the intersection of Washington and Juniper, a hundred feet or so from the bakery, which was also at the bottom of a very modest hill. The bakery, on slightly higher ground, was never seriously threatened by the waters but after the worst storms my aunts say Lake Tarentella often nibbled at one corner of the parking lot.

The lake would remain for hours until the water finally found its way into the inadequate sewer system and drained away. No one ever drowned in Lake Tarentella, but more than once cars were stranded when drivers underestimated the depth of the water. Their engines stalled and they found themselves trapped. Sometimes the water was high enough to seep into their cars. And sometimes their cars even floated briefly, drifting madly around the intersection, turning in slow, lazy circles until the wheels touched the pavement again as the water fell. The stranded drivers would sit in their front seats waiting for the waters to recede. Some read a newspaper or magazine. Some listened to the radio. Some cracked open their window and smoked cigarettes, spewing white clouds into the humid air and flicking their cigarette butts into the swirling dirty water around their cars. Some just took a lazy afternoon nap.

When the water was low enough the lucky ones could start their cars and drive away. The rest walked to the bakery in bare feet, shoes in hand. Men rolled their pants up. Women either hitched up their skirts or let them skim the water. They would ask to use the phone. My aunts offered these motorists pastries and cups of coffee while they waited, embarrassed, for a tow truck to arrive from Caruso's Garage. Many bought something while they waited: rolls, pastry or perhaps some cannolis. Most became regular customers if they were not already. Mother Nature was an ally of Tarentella Bakery.

Walnutwood's eternal Mayor, Bob Jones, made fixing the drainage at the intersection a priority soon after the bakery closed. Someone spoke up at a town meeting and said a child might drown unless something was done. Word was sent promptly to Mayor Jones (who never attends the meetings, oddly enough) and work began the next day. Lake Tarentella has never returned, but perhaps once or twice a year a small pond forms at the intersection after the worst rains. It vanishes in less than twenty minutes, a transient vestige of a past when a great expanse of water would inundate the intersection for hours.

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