The weather report didn't seem like that big of a deal to the kids. Rain upon rain, three systems back to back to back set to hit Elwood City and the northeastern U.S. Ladonna was happy to try out her new rain boots, as was DW. Muffy had a shiny pink umbrella from a boutique in Metropolis, and Francine was eager to avoid the soccer field after missing an important goal in the previous game.
But the adults, the knowing ones, were terrified. They all knew what this meant, this extra rain. They'd already had plenty during the spring, rains that had melted the two feet of snow that had accumulated during the last month of winter. All this liquid, all this precipitation was piling on itself, and these systems were going to push everything to the brinks. Dams could break as water built up in their reservoirs, and streets could be piled so high with water that everything on them gets washed away. Homes could be damaged beyond repair, and some near the rivers could get washed away altogether.
The only kid who seemed to understand was Brain. He knew exactly what rain upon rain would mean thanks to a recent unit he'd taken up on climate change. Mrs. Turner at the local library gave him books to read and a list of websites he might want to visit, and each one showed him dangers. Droughts, hurricanes, blizzards, and floods, the most common disaster of all. Floods came two ways, from melting snow and ice from the winter months or an onslaught of rain. The Plains had already flooded that spring from a combination of both. Now it was the northeast's turn, but this flood would be from the rain above, not from melting snow or a hurricane or anything else. Just rain, falling in waves and flowing towards places not equipped to take it all.
The stress showed on him as he entered Mr. Ratburn's class. He and Mr. Ratburn had the same worried, stressed out look. Bags around the eyes, paler than usual skin, and gestures that expressed worry—Brain chewed his pencil without realizing what he was doing as Mr. Ratburn played with his hands, no position being comfortable enough. Both of them had their eyes locked outside the window, where the first system had already dumped two inches on the city during the night. This was nothing, they realized, but it was something when you knew at least six inches would fall between then and noon, then five more during the night, and so on.
"C-Class, settle down," Mr. Ratburn stammered, grabbing a paper from his desk and moving to the chalkboard. Students knew this meant a morning warm-up, a pop quiz probably on the arithmetic they'd learned the day before. Mr. Ratburn moved to the board, grabbing a piece of chalk with shaky fingers. He could barely write the numbers and their signs, and the class noticed his handwriting had taken two steps back.
Brain could write or think at all. Now that the class was quiet, he could hear the rain in the gutter just outside the window. Drops hitting the gutter made a metallic noise as they hit then rolled down the outside of the spout. The rest poured from the roof, sounding like a roaring river in his ears. In reality it was a soft noise with a light metallic noise, like a bubbling brook trapped in a wide metal tube.
"Five minutes," Mr. Ratburn said, setting an egg timer on his desk with fingers still weak from shaking. He set the timer down and looked up, his eyes locking with Brain's. Brain's gaze was fixed out the window, and Ratburn knew this kid was his one ally.
A knock sounded at the door and Mr. Ratburn stepped outside. Principal Haney was there with Superintendent Clark. Mary Clark was new, but she'd seen this kind of weather before. She looked more worried than anyone, but she still flashed a toothy smile to Ratburn. He wondered if her rabbit ears always hung so low or if it was the stress.
"We wanted your opinion on something, Nigel," Principal Haney began, not a hint of worry in voice…at first, "Superintendent Clark wanted to talk to her teachers to see what they thought. Should we cancel school for tomorrow, maybe release early today?" he asked with a catch in his voice.
"That depends," Mr. Ratburn began, clearing his throat in an attempt to push away the stress that choked his words, "If we're going to get as much rain as they said this morning today, then yes, we should close early so parents aren't navigating flooded streets. As for tomorrow, I would cancel the entire day. By then we'll have too much for most gutters to handle. Streets will be lakes—"
"I know," she said, nodding firmly as she looked behind her. Miss Sweetwater appeared with an ignorant smile. Ratburn knew she was just like the students, clueless to the danger from up above.