The Calm

By Michael Chin

Haiti was in ruin. Again.

It was one of those places outside my consciousness most of the time—couldn’t tell you anything about the local politics or even, with any precision, where to find it on a map, until it materialized on the news, the victim of earthquakes and tropical storms and hurricanes.

It was on TV. Sheets of rain, trees pulled up from their roots, homes torn asunder. “It’s coming for us, buddy,” Uncle Ron said.

I didn’t want to watch TV. Only passed through the family room because I was trying to find my sneakers because even though Devin and Dad were tossing around the football barefoot on the beach, I still felt better wearing sneakers (everyone was drunk the night before—who was to say no one dropped a bottle and there weren’t glass shards hiding somewhere in the sand?)

But I was caught there. Uncle Ron, legs stretched across the couch, watching the TV, but clearly talking to me. His wife, Aunt Jude, sat upright in the recliner, practically rocking in her terror. The two of them were on the speaker phone talking to my father on our drive in, trying to gauge if they should make the rip at all. Finally, Dad tried not answering, but they kept calling and calling and calling. Then he told them what he thought was the last word. You come or you don’t, but don’t ask me to explain it to the family if you aren’t there.

They didn’t call for a full hour after that.

“The radar shows the hurricane moving farther off the coast the farther north it goes.” I hadn’t seen the radar, but I remembered Mom had said the same thing, watching her phone. Uncle Ron and Aunt Jude were there to hear the same thing, were surely seeing the same information then on their phones, on TV, or else they’d have let us all know it. Uncle Ron massaged the back of his neck in his hand. “A hurricane’s nothing to mess with.”

I walked away slowly. Backed out of the room so as to not be disrespectful, but rather disappear by degrees until they forgot about me. I made it all the way outside, shoeless, and heard Devin call, “Think fast,” and I did think just fast enough to spot the football winging toward me ,to catch it, solid against my chest.

I planted my hand on it, an official NFL ball. Uncle Ron invested in such things for Devin, not like the generic ball I had from Wal-Mart that was always too light, that had the wrong spacing between laces.

I gauged he weight, gauged the wind blowing, but not so bad beneath a sunny sky, and I let a rip, throwing the ball over Devin’s head, making him run for it, making him run for the water and the ocean lapped lazily at the sand. The hurricane was supposed to be a day away, but for now this world past the earshot of the TV, out beneath the sun was at peace.

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Michael Chin

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