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THE rain kept falling continuously. As if it was spilling from the sky. The wind was banging onto the edge of the house, rustling in tune with the rhythm of a leaf from then guava tree, the only one leave remaining in the compound. The voice of thunder echoing, as it was reflected by the concrete walls standing vertical towards the sky. That’s how it was since the last noon time muslim prayer. As if it was never going to stop.
I also heard the echo of the thunder, so clear as it passed through the membrane of my ears. Then, creeping into my chest. Ah, my heart was beating because of it. The sounds of thunder managed to scare Saimah and Rodiyah, those two kids seemed very excited when the turbid water begins to cover the face of the land, their eyes widening with enthusiasm, and their feet itching to get wet as they peered through the foggy window. To play in the rain.
I peeked through the window at the large drops of falling rain. In a brief moment the earth was submerged, the sewage canals overflowed, resembling a big mouth that has vomited all that had ever filled its stomach.
“It looks like we will be flooded tonight, it is raining heavily in Bogor. Romlah has sent an SMS to Saodah. Father doesn’t have to sleep downstairs, just sleep upstairs,” my wife appeared along with a soaked afternoon in Jakarta, her hair wet, and holding an sparsely-toothed comb, her fingers busily plucking her grey hairs that remained on the comb’s teeth. She plumped her back onto the chair near me. I glanced briefly at her. She was still busy combing her lock of hair that is already interwoven with greys.
“Flood delivery again,” I rustled. Outside, the rain still continued, along with the stagnant thunders. My voice appearing and disappearing in the midst of those stagnant thunders.
“Every year,” a grunt coming from my wife’s mouth. She stood up from her seat, walked towards the window where Saimah and Rodiyah were standing staring at the rain outside. Maybe she too was attracted by the falling rain out there. Or perhaps she was starting to pay attention to the water discharge in front of the house. I could see that her eyesight which was no longer sharp following the gazes of her niece and nephew that displayed a great desire to play in the rain outside.
“Is Rahman not back yet?” I moved my eyeballs around the house, diverting the anxiety that is starting to build. I have yet to see the appearance of my son’s nose until now. Meanwhile, Saodah, his wife, has been busy hauling stuff from this ground level to the floor upstairs. A tiring task, every year during the rainy season, to always have to carry the cabinets, TV, chairs, refrigerator, stove, mattress, clothes and all the knick-knacks to the floor above. Luckily, the many children they have, like termites, were willing to help out with their mother’s chores.
“Not yet. He also SMS to Saodah just now, saying that he is offering his moped hire service at the traffic junction out front. There are many passengers when it rains like this,” answered my wife without glancing. She was still busy with her sparsely-toothed comb and the rain outside.
No wonder the tip of his nose has not been seen yet. It’s always like that. Whenever it rains, he would pedal his iron moped to the traffic junction to look for passengers. Of course the Rupiah was his reason, his wife and children need food, not to mention that both his parents have also joined in as parasites. I breathed in the increasingly cool air, trying to relieve my chest which felt increasingly tight.
Maybe Rahman is actually fed up with this yearly routine. Just as I am. Ever since he was a teenager until now when he has borne his many children, every year during the rainy season he still has to haul the cabinet, TV and everything else in the house. At least now it’s not that bad, only having to haul everything to the upstairs floor. In the past, before this house was added a storey, the contents of the house had to be carried to the streets, onto a dry area. Well, even though the second floor is only made up of triplex, not a permanent structure of brick and mortamortars as turned out to be extremely beneficial.
“They said that if the East Flood Canal has been built, Jakarta will not be flooded again. From then till now it’s just a saying. And then the new governor said that the flood will be managed. Turns out the situation is still the same. Why is it only words from then till now.”
I moved my sight to where the sound came, Saodah (my son-in-law) had a frowning look. His face expressed exhaustion, mixed with fretfulness that was impossible to measure to what extend.
“How could it not be flooded, the entire land is already cemented. There is no canal. Rubbish are thrown into the river until they pile up,” I chimed in. Saodah turned faint hearted.
“But the governor promised us, dad. That EFC is gonna be able to overcome the flood problem in Jakarta. He promised end of 2011, while it is now already 2013. Even many houses have been demolished, it’s useless if there is no outcome.”
“Odah, Odah. It’s just a promise, if it’s fulfilled it’s great, if it’s not then what can we do?” said my wife, whilst my son-in-law’s face grew even more sulky hearing what his mother-in-law was saying.
“Well, we are tired, mom. Every year moving the the TV, cabinet, fridge. Meanwhile, it’s fine for the governor, his house is not flooded,” replied Saodah. He really could not get off his chest the disgusting feeling he has about this routine.
“Enough, don’t argue. Complaining until your teeth are dry won’t make Jakarta free from flood. It’s not only the governor who should be blamed. Blame it also on those who are still throwing trash into the river. Blame it also on the people who are building malls and housing complexes in the swarms, leaving no space for water,” I finally voiced out, I could not stand listening to them anymore. Saodah and my wife immediately became silent. Not another word.
“Rather than discussing the flood,” I continued, “go take care of your children instead, I’ve only seen Saimah and Rodiyah since early on. Where are Saro, Miun, Mamat and Sarmili? I’m worried, if the flood comes suddenly, all my grandchildren would drift.”
Saodah closed her mouth increasingly tight, brooding over his disgust about the flood that always occurred during the rainy season. The wind was still rustling out there, penetrating the holes in the house and scratching the skin.
“Earlier on they went out there, carrying umbrellas. They said they want to offer umbrellas for hire. Maybe they will be back soon, Dad,” said Saodah as she realized that I was still waiting for an answer to my question just now. I breathed in, relaxing my chest. In such rainy weather the children are roaming about out there.
THE night arrived with bodies drenched wet, shivering with the drizzle that continued to fall. Thunder appeared again from the sky, like a warning siren for those who peered anxiously from behind the windows of their houses. Water increasingly accumulating outside.
“The water has started to enter from the kitchen door, Grandpa,” shouted Miun who appeared all of a sudden. I gasped. Lightning was scratching out there, feeling as though it has tarnished my face in an instant. Immediately, Rodiyah, Saimah, Saro, Mamat and Sarmili ran to the kitchen door. It seemed like those kids wanted to witness when the water started to drown their house.
Turned out, not only did it enter through the kitchen door, it has also started to creep. Creep and reach out to everything that was in front of it. The air grew cold on my feet. Slowly, the water has soaked the floor where I was standing.
Suddenly, the light went off. In an instant darkness enveloped. A second later, I heard the hysterical screams of my grandchildren. The clatter of their feet sounded rumbling. Of course, the boys were afraid of the dark.
“Odah! Bring your children upstairs!” sounded my wife’s echoing voice, ahead of my mouth which was just about to open up. A beam of light emerged from the upper floor, my son-in-law came over with a candle. The hysterical cries of her children were getting louder, as they competed over climbing up the stairs to the upper floor.
“I go first!”
“Ouch, Miun stepped on my feet!”
“Aaa, don’t push!”
I sighed. They are so noisy. Moreover, the sounds of Saimah and Rodiyah crying could now be heard, these two were surely tossed around in the midst of the brawl caused by fear among their siblings. Hearing that, my wife stepped away from me, and she took the two grandchildren and brought them upstairs to their mother and siblings.
“Let’s go upstair, Dad. It’s too much water,” Rahman interrupted my thoughts. My feet were already wet, in fact wet up to my ankles. The ceramic of the house was already submerged. The turbid water mixed with mud had already covered the floor.
“Are we going to continue being flooded until dad has passed away and your children grown up, married, and have children of their own?” I asked, as if directed at myself.
“Hopefully not, Dad. Hopefully our new governor can help us,” said Rahman, “Since he has just been in office a few months ago, it needs time.”
I was silent. It’s true that the governor would need time. And it would also take time for the public to realize. Who knows when that time will come. I followed Rahman onto the stairs to the upper floor. And the water was creeping like a chase.
Meanwhile, outside, the rain has become unbearable. Like an artesian, pouring out of nowhere, the wind and thunder darting. Rain continued to fall. As if it would not stop until the next morning. Maybe the sky embankment above Jakarta has given way and its contents overpoured. I don’t know.
The water downstairs was stagnant. It continued to creep up, the cold air giving indication of its distance. The longer the time, the higher it gets. Probably the flood delivery from Bogor had arrived. The ground floor was almost submerged, making me unable to shut my eyes. I felt Mamat and Miun snuggling on my left and right, seeking protection from the rain in their grandpa’s frail body. The jarring thunder, the whistling wind and the falling rain continued to pour floods onto the wilderness of Jakarta. No sign that it was going to end. 
Bekasi, Rainy Season, 2012.
Guntur Alam, write short stories and novels , greet him in Twitter @AlamGuntur
Description : This short story became 1 of the 10 Best Short Story “Festival Seni Surabaya 2010”. Experiencing a bit of improvement to make it more contemporary .