If I had known then how to read a premonition, I guess I wouldn’t have gone, but you can’t really stop fate.
I would’ve recognized the signs, the bad feelings, indecision, hurry. The loudness. For Chrissake, Isabella even used her voice trying to tell us - tell Marvin. But we couldn’t understand because we couldn’t read the signs then. Plus, she was a dog.
The hurricane was either coming or it wasn’t, just like every other damn hurricane. Which path would it choose? Never decides until the last possible minute, after you’ve already made your plans and you’re stuck with your decisions.
We boarded all the windows (total, eternal, pain in the ass) and we decided to leave. It wasn’t that the storm was so big like Katrina - we knew we wouldn’t be wiped away - but we were sure we’d lose power and no one wants to be in New Orleans in the first week of September without a/c.
It was when we were leaving in our peaceless haste that Isabella cried out to us.
She never did that - speak like some dogs do - so it was alarming. Really, of course, it was an over-the-top WARNING, but i didn’t speak that language of vibration then.
She, in the middle of everything, used her voice, nearly screaming at Marvin - her message was to him. It freaked him out then, a bit, but much more in retrospect.
We decided to go to fucking Arkansas. We could’ve gone to Baton Rouge and stayed with family, but we had the dogs and I didn’t want to deal with the drama of keeping them caged. Baton Rouge ended up getting the worst of it anyway, as it turns out.
Could’ve stayed with family in Dallas, too, but didn’t want to go there either, for the same reason. No one understood how much I love the dogs, especially Isabella, and can’t just lock them up and put them in the garage for four days.
So we went to Arkansas. It was north - away from the storm, though it did end up coming our way, but weakened significantly - only heavy rain by the time it got to us. I had been to this motel before, on a trip back from California. I stopped there with Isabella. Just the two of us. It was a good place for dogs - a big, big yard bordering the woods.
The drive took forever. We might as well have gone to Dallas. I was in the car with the dogs and Marvin followed in his truck. A caravan.
It’s surprising to me now, reflecting back, that we even found the hotel. But we drove right to it. Marvin was pissed it took so long and so was I, but I couldn’t show it because it was my idea. It seemed closer before.
The people in the town were so friendly - I remembered that from the first time I was there. They were friendly to us on that trip too. Hope, Arkansas. The Mexican restaurant across the street from the hotel had framed photographs of Bill Clinton with the proprietor.
When parting, everyone in Hope said, “Be Careful.” It could’ve been just a charming thing to say, kinda hokey, but now I see it was another warning.
It got real boring real fast. The rain arrived, eventually, preceded by drear and grey. We went to the Mexican restaurant (“Be careful!” the waiters cheerfully said as we left.) We watched tv. We went to Walmart and bought some stuff we probably didn’t need.
The hotel was fully booked. People evacuated from everywhere nearer the coast. It was the first storm since Katrina. The atmosphere at the hotel was lively. The rooms faced out onto terraces.
When we got back from Wal-Mart, I decided to walk the dogs. I took them in the misted, grassy field along the line of woods. They loved it, which was the whole point of driving eight hours into a stranger’s land.
On the way back up to our room, I saw some Walmart bags containing shampoo and some things on the terrace just outside a cracked open door. A shampoo bottle had fallen out onto the concrete, so I bent to pick it up with one hand. I held the leashes with the other.
I heard a woman’s voice scream, ”No, no, no!” A pitbull ran through the door and picked up and bit through Isabella.
I let Hugo’s leash go so I could try to pry the pitbull’s teeth off Isabella’s tiny ribcage. I was screaming - frantic screaming from my chest. The pitbull wouldn’t let go.
Hugo ran off into the woods. “Fast as a rabbit,” one of the bystanders said.
The pitbull’s owner finally got her dog off Isabella.
I knew it was too late. Sunday, no vet for miles.
Arkansas, before I could read the signs.