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Andrew, August 24, 1992

Salwa C. Jabado

We picked all the limes off the limbs we could reach. They might become projectiles,
he explained. We made limeade. Mom and I scrubbed down the bathtubs with Ajax
and filled them with water in case the pipes burst. My brother had been stocking up
on milk jugs, washing them out and storing them for months, cluttering up the
cupboards. Be prepared. He'd learned this from young astronauts club, not us. He’d
gone to outer space with those kids in a He-Man sleeping bag, launched on a mission
from the second floor science classroom of our school. The hermit crabs in their shell-
suits didn't blink. They didn’t leave that room all weekend, toxic stellar air swaying the
palm trees outside, exploding the Miami sunsets. He tracked the storms all summer
until he found one he liked, one that would stick. I blamed him for it. We filled up the
milk gallons with water. We searched for candles and flashlights. Hoarded D batteries
for the radio, fretted that Dad wasn't home yet to nail plywood over the windows. Our
stomachs tumbled. The spinster sisters next door called their cats in. Coqui the tabby
ran from our rat-infested shed where my baby pictures were kept, a few more came
out from Dad's old checker cab still packed with cheap crystal and lacy bras waiting to
be hawked at the flea market. We pulled cans of food out and considered what we
could eat. Decided PB&J, hummus, canned corn and even soup if we heated it on a
jam-jar alcohol stove. Like getting ready for a party, all this planning. Dad pulled up
to us testing out the homemade stove in the driveway. He could always sense fire.
Dad didn't think it would hit but Mom threatened to leave so he set about nailing
plywood. The windows went dark one by one, the shutters came down. We moved the
mattresses into one room, turned the AC all the way up and tried to sleep holding onto
each other and listening to the rain. We all slept except Dad who was going over each
cement block he had used to build the house, knocking at them with the fist of his
mind to make sure they’d stand. We slept and the rain shuddered down. We slept until
4 am when the cats must have found their way out; they were howling, swirling around
the house. We slept until it hit.

Salwa C. Jabado

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