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Noah's Ark

A man and a boy walked along the cracked pavement that ran through the small village of Kingston Green. The man walked with a pronounced stoop leaning heavily upon an aluminium walking pole, his face raised in a permanent squint. The boy ambled beside him, struggling to maintain the slow pace. They stopped, the boy looking at the man questioningly.

'There's Noah's Ark,' said the man, raising his left arm in a shaky point.

The boy considered the small bungalow in front of them. There was nothing to set it apart from all the other bungalows surrounding it. There were certainly no elephants, or giraffes, or lions.

'Why do you call it that?'

The man turned sharply. 'Not just me,' he replied hotly. 'Everyone in these parts knows that place as Noah's Ark.'

The boy stared at the bungalow, searching for something intelligent to say. The limited material he was working with offered little scope.

'Why?' he said again, for want of absolutely anything else.

'Why indeed,' said the man, resuming his tottering walk.

The boy was intrigued now. 'Does whoever live there have a lot of animals?'

'Not a one.'

'Is he a sailor?'

'He was a chef.'

The boy frowned, wracking his brains. 'Was he a chef at a zoo?'

The man stopped again and stared at the boy. 'Now you're being daft.'

The boy fell silent, affronted by the suggestion that any daftness in the conversation had originated from him.

'Noah's Ark was the only home in the village that stayed dry in the flood of '04,' said the man, after a period of silence.

The boy nodded but said nothing.

The man glanced over at his young companion, surprised the revelation had not provoked some sort of response. 'All the rest of us was flooded. Water lapping at our windowsills. It was the worst flood this village has ever known. Well, since '81 anyway. But Noah's Ark stayed dry.'

'So, the man who lives there, is his name Noah?' said the boy, still desperately seeking clarity.

'Of course not. Nobody's called Noah in real life. Never knew a Noah. His name is Derek. No, David. Or is it Peter? No matter. He's not Noah.'

'So why …'

'Because his place didn't flood in a flood,' snapped the man, losing patience with the boy's inability to grasp the story. 'And we all ended up in there. He opened his doors. To the whole village.'

The boy frowned at the bungalow. 'It's quite small.'

'It is. It was a bit cramped. But it was the only dry spot in the village. Let's sit a while, I'm knackered.'

They sat on a silvered wooden bench at the side of the road and silently contemplated the bungalow at the heart of the story. The man propped his hands on the walking pole and nodded.

'There were a few fights. Well, arguments at least. Thomas Everett and Lee Toots nearly came to blows over whether or not the flood was the government's fault. They had to be pulled apart and placed in separate rooms. Noah told 'em to behave or he'd send 'em back to their homes.'

'I thought he wasn't Noah?'

'I can't remember his damned name. Noah'll do.'

'So did they stop fighting?'

'Too right. Least 'til the emergency services arrived anyway. Then they had a bit of a do about which way the boat should go. They both ended up in the water then. Come on, I could do with a cup of tea. Let's get back. The racing's on in half-an-hour.'

The boy ambled along beside the man, sensing he had failed to understand the point of the story. They reached the man's home, a ramshackle construction of botched repairs and broken fences, and shuffled along the overgrown path. When they reached the door the man paused and turned back to face the village.

'Tell me, do you notice anything at all about Noah's Ark?'

The boy looked at him for a moment, then back at the village. After a few seconds he picked out the bungalow amidst the others. They were all so similar. The only thing distinguishing the one known as Noah's Ark was that it was …

The man chortled. 'Yes, you see it don't you?'

'It's at the lowest point in the village!' gasped the boy. He spun around to face the man. 'Then how...? Wait, Noah … it wasn't, you know?' he turned his eyes heavenward.

'Divine intervention? Well I suppose in a way it might have been,' the man pulled his keys from his pocket and wrestled them into the door. 'See, Noah's two sons worked at the pit. They came in the middle of the night with a truckload of sandbags. By the time day broke, every house in the village was under water, all except Noah's Ark.'


© 2014 Kay Lawrence.


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