Temporary Shelter

By Katie L., Age 17

I could barely see the boy for the deafening dim that echoed in the recently re-modeled gym. Toying with the red band the woman had snapped around my wrist, I did my best to keep my eyes on this stranger, ignoring everything else that had happened in the past few days. He seemed to be around my age, but without my contacts in I couldn’t be too sure. The boy was lying on his stomach on his cot, his head dropping over the end of the mattress his feet should’ve been on. Another boy – his brother, maybe – kneeled on the floor beside him; they were talking. The two must have been related for they looked similar, but I could not find the energy to search through my full backpack for my glasses case. Besides, it was probably crushed from hours in the car. I felt the exhaustion set in, but the noise and the harsh light would not allow me to succumb to it, so I played a game in my head instead. I began to make up a life for the boy on the cot – to imagine his story, why he was here and resting one row in front of me in this gym in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as my watch ticked closer and closer to midnight. He lived in Lakeview with his family: his parents, younger brother, and the family dog, a Labrador puppy named Jake. They had left before the storm, packing only their most important belongings, some blankets, and a few pillows. They’d had to leave Jake behind. Their car ran out of gas a mile down the road, near the empty, desolate gas station we had stopped at just half an hour ago. They’d wanted to sleep in the car, but the heat and the mosquitoes and moths were much too much to handle. (I myself knew this from experience.) The boy did not know what had happened to his house, but had he asked, I could have told him there was a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that it was completely underwater. My ears picked out his laugh from the surrounding voices and decided not to tell him this. His laugh told me he was better off not knowing anyway, and with that thought I fell asleep on my mattress on the varnished floor of the new basketball court, closing my eyes to the blinding lights.