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  • The Flood
  • Jason Brown (bio)

Residents of fifty homes in Vaughn were evacuated after heavy rains and melting snow caused the Kennebec River to overflow its banks. Several families trapped by rising water had to be rescued. State wardens used a boat to save a pack of hunting dogs from their kennel, and one man had to be ferried back to his home because he had fled without taking any money with him. The largest single evacuation took place at the Victorian Villa Rehabilitation and Living Center on Pleasant Street, a nursing home and residential care facility for seniors. Dairy farmers moved their cows to higher ground. The waters flooded a potato farm and warehouses and submerged cars and trucks. Volunteer firefighters moved all their firefighting apparatuses to the town garage before the fire station was encircled by floodwaters. Most roads leading in and out of town were shut down. Some families took up shelter in the American Legion Hall, where children whooped and watched television. Maine Emergency Management Agency officials flew over Vaughn in a Forest Service helicopter. They also took photographs.

When Franklin saw the water cross the street and flow toward his shop, Vaughn Antiques, he and Brian started moving things to the apartment upstairs. They took the larger items first, the sea trunks, chests, a pew from the old United Church, a loveseat, a wing chair. Brian left to see if his great aunt Mrs. Lee needed any help, and Franklin carried the other things (hooked rugs, Wedge-wood, a series of old electric clocks, farm tools, old lamps, rum casks, books) and stacked them in careful piles on the cracked linoleum of his second-story kitchen and on the old shag carpeting of the bedroom. The postcard collection and Rogers silver he placed on top of the dresser. On the quilt he set the delicate musical instruments, a violin, clarinet, and cello, all of them dilapidated and beyond repair. The oil lamp globes he rested on the various straight-backed chairs, one for each seat. The globes and the instruments were the most important to him even if they were not, by far, [End Page 39] the most valuable. He also did not want to lose his collection of tin types, which included a six-fingered Union soldier holding a banjo.

After he finished arranging everything, he stood back to look. All his things looked so out of place stacked up here on the carpet and chairs. The flood wouldn’t last long, he told himself, but there was no way of knowing exactly how long. He tried to take a deep breath, as the doctor had told him to do when his chest tightened and he started to get an ache at the very top of his head. Once he had lost consciousness standing in the middle of his shop on a Monday afternoon. He restacked the books on the floor, moving them away from the window, in case any dampness came through, and he rewrapped the glass lampshades in tissue paper to prevent any chipping when he moved them back downstairs. Nothing made him feel better, though. Everything was out of place.

He checked the shop once more, opening the front door so the water wouldn’t break in, and went back upstairs to sit on the rug amidst his things and wait. It was impossible to know how high the water would reach.

The river continued to rise past dark. The electricity went out, the phone went dead. Outside, the street lamps hung like the limbs of winter hardwoods. The air was heavy and the only sounds were the lapping of water against the walls downstairs and the current rushing along the cobbled walkways heading south toward Dresden Mills, Pemaquid Point, and the ocean.

In the morning, Dom’s station wagon sat in front of his barbershop, the water halfway up the wheels. Dom stood in the window of the second story looking down at the street. Franklin opened the window and waved, but Dom didn’t see. Even though it was late February, it was warm enough for Franklin to take off the argyle sweater his mother had given him for...


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