Category Archives: hurricanekatrina

Re-Membering Katrina, “When Chris Met Katrina”- a short story

The boat whistled its’ way through the waters and soon the screams of the women faded. The air was now filled with the constant yells of families sitting on roofs screaming for help.  They approached Memorial Medical Center and Chris decided to seek refuge there.  As he got closer, he could see through the lobby window hundreds of people camped inside.  Every seat was occupied and people were sprawled out on the floor with blankets.  Police were patrolling the doors.  Chris knocked but the policemen just stood and shook their heads in the negative.  Chris trudged through the water to the other side of the hospital and policemen were standing heavy guard at those doors too.  He knew besides the sore bones and loose teeth, he had no serious injury and they were not going to let him in.

Chris double tied his bag of food and treaded through the water on his tippy toes.  He began to reminisce on the summers growing up in New Orleans.  His father worked as a mechanic in a neighborhood shop and in the summer Chris would help out by washing the cars once he was done.  Afterwards, instead of joining his cousins down at the local swimming pool, he hung out with the neighborhood knuckle heads and smoked weed.  Or they convinced one of the older drunks to buy them liquor.  He was all of nine years old.  With the water slapping up against his chest and occasionally splashing in his face, he wished he had taken those swimming lessons instead.

A few blocks from the hospital, Chris found himself pacing in the water side by side with a dog.  The dog was a dark brown cocker spaniel probably looking for a dry place to rest his feet.  From atop, the dog seemed to be relaxed.  But he knew underneath he was probably  paddling his legs wild as the devil!  Chris remembered how easy it was to tread the dog paddle when he was younger so he picked his feet up to give it a try.  He quickly dipped in the thick, murky waters and emerged panicked.  He struggled to get his stance stable but soon regained his pace and continued down the street with the other stranded people.

A little ways down, Chris spotted the small boat and whistled to get their attention.  They acknowledged him by waving.  Other people began to whistle and try and make their way to the boat too so Chris picked up his pace.  The eyes of the dog swimming nearby were showing signs of exhaustion.  There was no telling how long the dog had been in the water.  The dog let out a bark, then went under the water.  Within seconds, his head reappeared and he began to bark in desperation.  Chris was mindful to stay as far away from the dog as possible to avoid being bitten.  The small boat reeved it’s engine as they waited for him.  The dog’s bark now became aggressive as he continued to swim towards Chris.  The men on the boat splashed water towards the dog to slow him down and distract  his concentration on swimming.

“Come on man!  Dat dog look mad or summin’!,” one of the men said.

Chris turned his head to witness the dog go under again.  He started to run on his tip toes because he knew he would get sprayed with the dirty water when the dog came back up.  He reached the boat and threw his bag of food aboard.  He could feel the water spray on the back of his neck as the dog shook its’ head.  The men reached down and pulled Chris on the boat.

“They wasn’t lettin’ nobody in down at the hospital huh?,” Gunner asked.

“Naw,” Chris simply replied.

The boat pulled away and the dog continued to swim behind it.  His eyes were bulging as he barked pleas of help.  There was nothing in sight for the dog to take refuge on.  The dog’s shiny, brown coat disappeared under the water a third time, not to emerge again.

a snippet from the short story book, Mississippi Window Cracks.

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Mississippi Window Crack

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The Making of Mississippi Window Cracks

(the prologue to Mississippi Window Cracks written in 2006)

A few years ago I decided that after all the books and movies I had read and seen related to the civil rights struggles and the state called Mississippi, it was time to take a visit.  I arranged to spend a few days in Jackson, Mississippi, with a colleague of mine so I could walk the land that enveloped the energy of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Margaret Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Emmett Till and the streets of the infamous “Freedom Summers”.  My time there was filled with meeting civil rights heroes that are still alive, pouring libation on slave plantations, visiting museums and other historic sites, relaxing on the porch fanning flies until the sunset, and of course the southern cuisine.

One morning, my friend declared she knew the best place in town for a good bowl of grits.  Upon arriving at the cozy, corner diner downtown, she turned the car off and told me to put a crack in the window.  I told her that living in Los Angeles, people really didn’t do that but I remember it from growing up in Kansas City, Mo. Effortlessly, she rolled a crack in the driver’s side window.  I followed hastily already tasting the buttery grits in my mouth.  She turned and looked at me then spoke with hesitance in her voice.

“What’s that?”, she asked.

“What’s what?”

“I thought you were going to put a crack in the window.”

“I did.”

“That’s a crack?,” she asked sarcastically.

Now feeling totally self conscious I affirmed, “Yeah, this is the kind of window crack I used to do in the summertime in Kansas City.”

“Well this ain’t Missouri, this is Mississippi!  You better put a bigger crack in that window as hott as it is out here!”

I gave the handle on the window a few more turns to open it up.

She encouraged me, “A little more.”

I carefully cranked it until I gained her nod of approval, “Like this?”

“Yeah!  Now that there is a Mississippi window crack!”

The funny part about this story is how serious it got!  It was almost a borderline argument.  But as we walked in the diner, we laughed and joked how that would be a good title for a poem and who was going to write it first.  Well, here is my book of short stories that chronicle the tales fed to me through the trees, music, and people I met during my time spend in Jackson.  Instead of vacationing in the Bahamas or Paris, take a visit down in the deep south to a part of history, your history, our history.  You ever heard the saying, “There’s the United States and then there’s Mississippi?”  It’s the truth!  Go feel it for yourself!

with love,

nikki skies

PS – The grits were delicious!

Mississippi Window Crack

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“When Chris Met Katrina” Snippets of a story from the book “Mississippi Window Cracks”

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The boat whistled its’ way through the waters and soon the screams of the women faded. The air was now filled with the constant yells of families sitting on roofs screaming for help.  They approached Memorial Medical Center and Chris decided to seek refuge there.  As he got closer, he could see through the lobby window hundreds of people camped inside.  Every seat was occupied and people were sprawled out on the floor with blankets.  Police were patrolling the doors.  Chris knocked but the policemen just stood and shook their heads in the negative.  Chris trudged through the water to the other side of the hospital and policemen were standing heavy guard at those doors too.  He knew besides the sore bones and loose teeth, he had no serious injury and they were not going to let him in.

Chris double tied his bag of food and treaded through the water on his tippy toes.  He began to reminisce on the summers growing up in New Orleans.  His father worked as a mechanic in a neighborhood shop and in the summer Chris would help out by washing the cars once he was done.  Afterwards, instead of joining his cousins down at the local swimming pool, he hung out with the neighborhood knuckle heads and smoked weed.  Or they convinced one of the older drunks to buy them liquor.  He was all of nine years old.  With the water slapping up against his chest and occasionally splashing in his face, he wished he had taken those swimming lessons instead.

A few blocks from the hospital, Chris found himself pacing in the water side by side with a dog.  The dog was a dark brown cocker spaniel probably looking for a dry place to rest his feet.  From atop, the dog seemed to be relaxed.  But he knew underneath he was probably  paddling his legs wild as the devil!  Chris remembered how easy it was to tread the dog paddle when he was younger so he picked his feet up to give it a try.  He quickly dipped in the thick, murky waters and emerged panicked.  He struggled to get his stance stable but soon regained his pace and continued down the street with the other stranded people.

Continue reading “When Chris Met Katrina” Snippets of a story from the book “Mississippi Window Cracks”

Love for Louisiana, Re-membering Katrina

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August 29, 2005 marks the day the world has now recorded as one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the United States.  Hurricane Katrina struck the poorest region in this country, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  She changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

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The following story was inspired by an interview I conducted with my neighbor.  He moved to Los Angeles after losing everything to the storm in New Orleans.  Although the story is fiction, and written to connect with the other short stories in the book, some of the incidents, times and locations are true accounts of what he described to me during his four day ordeal of waiting to be rescued.  My neighbor declined interviews from dozens of Los Angeles newspapers that contacted him.  His simple request to me was that his name be Chris in the story.  I am honored he felt comfortable enough to share such an intimate story with me.  He cried twice and broke down once.  A man who can no longer sleep when it rains.  A man proud to be from New Orleans but angry that he was left to die.

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I dedicate the story, When Chris Met Katrina to EJ from apartment #7

also

my Grambling State University roommate, Kelly Lawrence.  A Louisiana native whose face flashed on CNN news with her three children at the Houston Astrodome.

And respectively,

to the millions of people

effected directly and indirectly.

love, libations and prayers.

nikki

ms window crack pic

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the grits of New Orleans

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I live amongst an amazing circle of friends who write for magazine publications, theater, poetry, novels and short stories. What is amazing is the variety of genres that are covered and how most have embraced this is how the stories come to them. From whomever or where ever they contribute their muse or creative direction, we are all very different.

I am folklore and history. I have been since elementary. I have been visited by songs from oak trees to rural area cobble stone streets. Like most artists, my sleep has been kidnapped by the smells of their cooking and their loud and sometimes hallow laughter. You’ve heard of the “dog whisperer”? Ok, allow me to officially introduce myself, I am Nikki Skies the “southern city whisperer”.
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A summer visit to Jackson, Mississippi inspired my book Mississippi Window Cracks. Working in Montgomery, Al inspired my book Porch n Pork. I recently visited New Orleans for a weekend getaway and was bombarded with voices and stories! From the arrival of marble steps from France to the soulful meals of low country boils to feed families.

I get a romantic story or poem every six years or so. For the most part, excluding the freedom I am creating for this blog, I keep my personal life and stories out of my writings. I would much rather write about you through my colors and seasons. Like how you spent the first musky humid filled night with Katrina, or how your bead strewn streets are actually full of prayers. The life found in your cemetaries and the trusting trance you’d place on swamp gators till daybreak. New Orleans, I heard you. And yes, I will write one of your stories.

9th Ward, I Saw You

I finally saw where you ran.  I finally saw where you climbed.  I rode on the freeway you slept.

I wept.

I saw your cobble mixed streets and humidity strangled window panes

the markings on your porch remain / your neighbor remain refrained from returning

and we partied on Bourbon Street.

I saw how you thought it’d be safe to stay / I saw where the levee gave way

…the Mississippi lived up to her name, Mighty.

like yellow stained teeth from coffee and smoke / I saw

the flood stains that remain against your doors and fences and house panels

up to 6 feet / too deep for grandmother and her 55 year old niece

and we partied on Bourbon Street.

and I saw the roofs where you climbed / the shot gun houses with attic crawl space

for the young to cling to who were small and few

I know how you pray / so I know you thought it’d be safe to stay

forgive us for not pouring some spirits on the streets for your soul of mind.

9th Ward, I Saw You.  I saw where you met Katrina.

 

inspired by a New Orleans visit 6/2013 -copyright nikki skies 2013