A mandatory evacuation emptied their neighborhood.
Days later, things that hover in the air—satellites, helicopters, drones—detail the destruction with live video feeds and still shots. People all over the country and around the world stare into televisions and phones, mesmerized by a God-like view of the before and after, zooming in and out, devastation in high definition. The ocean in the yard, uninvited, trespassing, peeking through windows. An intruder slipping in, rushing up the stairs, rearranging things. A thief who steals by the house load, sifting thoroughly through drawers, cabinets, and closets. A cold, grim reaper for some, carrying their gulping bodies away.
What couldn’t be seen or heard was a mother’s gentle explanation to her children, still too young to comprehend, that something called a hurricane was coming and they must pack some items. “It’ll be like a vacation,” she said, and the babies began to celebrate.
“Choose a single toy to bring; whichever one means the most to you.”
Colorful bins were spilled and sorted. Two little sisters lined their favorite things in a march, down the center of the bedroom floor, a carpeted main street. Plastic horses and their bow-legged riders led the way; followed by a red pickup truck full of rubber puppies; after that, the famous Disney fairies: Tinker Bell, Fawn, Vidia, Periwinkle, Rosetta, Iridessa, and Silvermist; then, a glow worm with no batteries; a Malibu Barbie and Harry Styles; an alligator; a talking parakeet; a purring kitten; a rotating disco ball; a handful of their prettiest marbles; a baby doll with a painted face (a gift from grandma); a fuzzy assortment of stuffed animals; smiling Playmobil people; a plastic boat full of sea shells; Cinderella and Snow White with a missing limb; a sock monkey; a slobbery, squeaky chew bone dropped by a German shepherd still wagging her thick, interfering tail; a pink car packed with beads and homemade bracelets; and a number of other trinkets, curving to the far wall where a crooked Lincoln Log gate had been built for this special occasion.
One large gathering. The final get-together. A farewell reunion of birthday and Christmas toys.
It seemed a normal play day like any other: laughter, off-key singing with made up lyrics, a small amount of normal sibling bickering, a silly dog thumping around and knocking things over, pure imaginations sketching pictures of butterflies, flowers, and rainbows. Two happy children upstairs without a care in the world; but their mother was downstairs with the same world heavy on her shoulders. The sky was about to fall.
Later that day, “Come on, it’s time to go.”
Seconds after the jingle of the mother’s keys locked the front door and the family car pulled away, the house went suddenly still, completely silent but for the clicking sound of an oven cooling down. Grilled cheese sandwiches scented the air. Life had stopped right then and there. The heart-tugging, eerie calm before the storm.
Both girls decided to bring along their Cabbage Patch dolls—they were the chosen ones, Percy and Padgett—the children’s children.
Florence finally visited the house and rudely entered through the roof. The girls were in a safe place when she rained on their parade.
The heavy downpour. The rising tide. A cyclone of wind. Measured, clocked, televised. All the attention.
Unseen, however, the cherished but unchosen toys began to move. Each floated from one side of the room to the other in all their final glory. One last pass in review. A permanent parting of ways. A private, soggy, sorrowful goodbye. Then up, up, up into the sky. Gone with one gusty breath.
Sometimes, in the adult world, fairies really do fly. No pixie dust is required.