The water from the mighty Ohio began to rise in earnest. A
vast majority of the city's inhabitants had fled days earlier and
only a handful of people remained to ride out the disaster as
best they could. Most of the people who stayed behind had already
found refuge on the second levels of their buildings. They had
entrenched themselves with supplies and firearms anticipating
only a few days of isolation. The river had already drifted a
good foot over flood stage along the river's edge and the water
had amassed to over a foot deep in Paducah's lower town area. The
electricity had finally failed and with no power, wood or coal
burning stoves and fireplaces were the only heat source. Phone
service had also come to an abrupt end.
Andrew Long, his wife Margarete, and Billy Wright had not
prepared as well as they thought for the disaster. Food, kerosene
lanterns, water, blankets, and firearms had been carried to the
upper level but they had never considered the temperature
dropping below freezing. The men had only carried a small amount
of wood up the steps, never realizing the length of time they
would be trapped by the water. The river had already swept its
way down the city streets closest to the river's bank and water
which measured at least two foot deep now stood in the lower
level of the store. Margarete Long had taken to not eating and
had developed an ominous sounding, deeply seeded cough. Margarete
had just finished having one of her coughing fits. Andrew looked
in her direction with a look of concern etched on his face.
"Margarete," Andrew Long asked his wife, "are you okay?"
Margarete who had refused to move away from the second floor
window of the store turned and smiled a cold lifeless smile in
her husband's direction.
"I am fine," she finally whispered hoarsely at her husband of
"I worry about you dear," Andrew replied, "you haven't eaten
since this thing started and you scarce sleep anymore."
Margarete sat as still as a granite statue. She continued to
gaze out the window as if it was a beautiful spring day and
nothing was wrong. A sudden coughing spell caused her to double
over and Andrew Long noticed the spatters of blood that tinged
his wife's handkerchief. He cringed and walked over to Billy
"I fear for my wife's health," he said quietly to Billy, "she
is not well and refuses to eat or rest. Maybe we should have done
as the others and moved to higher ground. I am afraid escape is
The cold icy water continued to rise almost as if by magic.
Billy and Andrew had gone down to the lower level earlier that
morning and found the water to be almost two feet deep inside the
store. There had been cries that had come through the night from
neighboring buildings. The others who had opted to stay were
communicating with each other by a series of yells that went up
periodically. The electricity and phone service had finally
played out and Andrew wondered if his dear wife would survive the
"I should have taken her to safety," he whispered to Billy,
"if she dies it will be my fault."
Billy placed a hand gently on his friend of ten years shoulder
and gave a firm squeeze.
"No my friend," Billy responded shaking his head, "we had no
way of knowing this would happen. Come let's fix something to eat
and get Margarete away from that window."
Andrew feigned a smile at his friend and then nodded his head
in an affirmative manner. The two men walked over to her side and
pulled Margarete cautiously away from the perch she had built at
the window. At first she began kicking and screaming but she soon
exhausted herself. They brought her to the makeshift bed in the
corner of the room and Andrew covered her up with several quilts
which Margarete had sewn. He bent down slightly and kissed her
forehead. Her skin was cold as the rain that was falling beyond
the store's walls. What bothered Andrew the most was the glassy
look she had in her beautiful emerald eyes, those eyes Andrew had
fallen in love with years ago. They had been so full of life and
promise and now they had become dark and cloudy.
"Will you try and eat something?" Andrew asked her
Margarete still in her own little world she had created stared
at her husband with a blank expression. It took several minutes
before she eventually nodded her head in a negative manner.
Andrew sighed and pulled the quilts a little tighter around
Margarete's tiny body.
"Sleep my love," Andrew whispered to her, "when you wake up
the worst may have come and gone."
He watched her eyes flutter several times and then they
closed. Andrew sighed and went to sit with his friend.
"With any luck at all and maybe a prayer or two," Billy said
to Andrew, "this thing will be over with soon."
Andrew had always been a very religious man and he and his
wife had attended church services on a regular basis. Andrew had
not a doubt that there was indeed a God and he believed in the
Bible. What struck Andrew as odd was that his friend Billy had in
his own way professed his faith as well by saying what he did.
Andrew knew for a fact that his friend did not believe and never
had in God, church or the Bible. It seemed strange to Andrew that
Billy would make such a remark.
"Yes my friend," he replied smiling, "perhaps a prayer or two
will get us through."
The two men sat and ate a modest dinner of bread and goat's
cheese. Billy had brewed a pot of coffee to drink with the meal.
They sat talking quietly to each other for a long time.
The sound of people calling back and forth to one another
began once more. There was a faint tapping noise as the rain had
changed over to sleet. The sound echoed hollowly and eerily in
the room where the three had taken refuge. Margarete had fallen
into a deep uneasy sleep and occasionally the men would hear her
coughing. Each time her cough sounded just a little bit more
severe than the time before.