Today, Mum took me aside to tell me about the floods. She didn't want to worry Skye so Dad took her.
Mum told me why they turned off the water in the taps. She said that the problem with floods is that water gets everywhere, it picks up dirt and rocks and bugs and rats and anything else in the way like a giant soup and then it gets everywhere, including the clean water. She said that was why they turned off the taps. That was why we had to keep our water containers locked away, because water was getting less and less and if people drank bad water they would get sick. She told me that soon school would end for a while and that I had to pay attention and earn as much as possible. "Ask questions, Mina!" She had said. "Not the questions they won't answer but the questions that they do."
That confused me a bit but I kept trying at school. I made sure I finished everything fast but correct. I watched how the older kids did things. The teachers liked that. I asked what was causing the flood but they didn't tell me. I asked if it had been raining a lot somewhere, still no answer. This was what Mum had meant. They wouldn't answer questions about why the flood was happening but they would answer things about what to do when it did.
I asked them as many questions as I could think of. Most of the teachers didn't know, they all said to ask my new P.E teacher, Mr. Pembroke. He's scary. He does't really talk much he just yells all the time. He also has a funny mustache and walks like his back is bade of wood. But Mum said to ask questions, so I did.
It was the first time I had ever heard him speak normally before.
"Miss Blake!" he barked, squinting down at me over his mustache.
"Why are you here?" He gestured at the surrounding sport field, made muddy by the afternoon sports groups.
Several of the older kids glanced my way as they ran past in baggy tracksuits, mud rucked up past their shins.
"I have a question, sir."
"Oh (. ? !)"
He said it as though unsure how to proceed. Normally questions were for the classroom. He looked uncomfortable, surprised, annoyed, but also a bit proud of inspiring a question but he tried to hide all that with grunt.
"Well, alright then, what is it?" He asked.
"It's just... well... You know we do the school drills? Well I just - What if we aren't in school? When it happens, I mean, like on a weekend." The words bursted out in a spattered jumble but Mr. Pembroke looked taken aback.
His mustache twitched and his eyebrows furrowed. He looked from me to the track runners on the other side of the field and then back to me with a good hard glance. His back wobbled a bit and he sagged like a birthday balloon with a very small hole poked in it. He sudently looked withered, old and not the least bit scary. His eyes were sad and blue and when he sighed he looked like he had hoped no one would ever ask him this question, but also hoping that people would.
"The best thing," he started, and broke off because his voice had turned gruff.
"The best thing you can do is get as high up as possible. There will be an alarm, the same one that they have for the school drill to go to the roof. You take grab as much clean water and food as you can without weighing yourself down too much and you find a nice spot high up. Try stay away from areas with lots of people. People get scared easily and they panic. Understand?"
He gave a quick nod and straightened.
"Your parents? Ramona and Peter Blake, aren't they?
He nodded again and reached inside his coat to fetch a folded bit of paper which he handed to me.
"Give this to them understand? They are smart ones your mum and dad, they will keep you safe. Tell them Joseph Pembroke gave you this paper. It will help." He nodded again, grunted and straightened up to his full height.
"Well go on, then! Be off home."
"Thank you, sir." I said, slidding the paper into my satchel and running of the field towards home.
Mum says that I did well, that I don't need to ask anymore questions like that or I might get in trouble. She says I should still concentrate in class and learn as much as I can but that the time for questions was over.