You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

The Storm

Lawrence Bush
February 28, 2010

by Lawrence Bush
The morning after the storm, the fish tank temperature is down 68 from its standard 82 degrees. I heat two small potfuls of water from our one big potful and dump them in, which raises the temperature to 70. Next time, Susan says, we should empty water from the tank itself, heat it up, and dump it back in. She has a lot of resourceful ideas like that. And she makes sure to separate that pot from everything else so we don’t get any parasites.
Next I bundle up and go outside to access the crawl space beneath the house, where our furnace and well pump sit silent. Melt water, which pours into this space and is usually expelled by two sump pumps, now needs to be bailed out by the gallonful so that the furnace and well pump don’t get flooded. Next time, I reminded myself, don’t wear a fucking scarf, as I keep hurling the fringes over my shoulder to keep them out of the giant corn pot that I am toting, wobbling, up and down the stone stairs to dump the mucky water in the snow. Unless the temperature stays below freezing, I’ll have to do this every three hours or so, five to ten corn pots per visit.
From the crawl space I head to the woodshed with my wheelbarrow down an 80-foot path that I dug out the day before (two shovelsful of snow per foot). Our woodpile is getting low, about a two weeks supply left of lesser-quality stuff. The woodstove is now the only source of heat in the house — but without fans going to blow the heat around, the downstairs rooms are deprived while the upstairs hallway is toasty.
The cats are hanging around in the upstairs hallway.
While I shlep in a half-day’s supply of wood, Susan is moving all our houseplants out of our little solarium into the living room, closer to the woodstove, and brewing coffee in our old Spanish coffee sock, which we used to use on camping trips.
ToiletWe are less than an hour into being awake and I have already done more physical labor than I usually do in a week. For that entire hour I have needed to go to the bathroom, but there are no flushes left in our toilets, so I decide to wait until I can get to the library or a restaurant in a couple of hours. Good for me, not to rush to the bathroom every time I feel a vague call. This, too, is Torah, and I need to learn it, I think, recalling a strange Talmudic passage about a student spying on his teacher’s intimate activities.
It’s there in the Talmud, I promise, but I’m too exhausted to go find the citation. Susan, however, has already figured out a system for flushing the toilets with melted snow, bless her. She has a bad back and is not allowed to lift more than 25 pounds, so I’ll be the work horse, but she’s definitely the mastermind.
The fish tank filter will be the first thing we hear when our electricity comes back on, a brief, dry crackle followed by a faint splash of mayim, mayim, water hitting water. Until then, the fish will be in darkness. They get excited when I scoop out and pour back their heated water. One of them is a ten-year-old goldfish. My daughter, now 23 and living 700 miles away, won it at a school fair and will be very sad if it dies.

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.