Where to begin? he wondered. Palm trees lay like fallen giants across the road, broken twisted things mixed with beach wood carried inland by the storm surge, and puddles of brown water still pocked the yards. The street in front of his house was a river of trash and mud. His house, built to withstand these storms, had still lost half a roof, most of a front porch, and all of the windows. His neighbors had fared no better.
Now, the sun shone as if nothing had ever happened, yet a dark cloud settled ever deeper upon him. He picked his way through the ruin, boots sinking in the oversaturated earth. Too much. This town, this state . . . how could life return to normal in the aftermath? He picked up a small stick stripped of bark and hurled it as far as he could.
A dog appeared from behind some rubble. A golden retriever, his coat matted and dirty. He ran and leaped over piles of debris like they were hurdles in an obstacle course, disappearing behind a fallen tree, then reappearing, running straight toward the man with the stick in his mouth. The dog dropped the stick at his feet then looked up, expectation in his eyes and a smile on his face.
The man shook his head but picked up the stick. “Go fetch!” The dog took off at a sprint, returning moments later and dropping the stick at his feet.
Finding another one, he lobbed it into the street. The dog trotted off and quickly returned, gripping it in his mouth like some prized chunk of meat.
Twenty minutes later, every dog-sized branch and piece of beach wood in his front yard lay in a pile. The dog grinned up at him, panting as if to say, “What’s next?”
The man smiled in spite of himself, eyeing the fallen palm trees in the road and a handful of people standing around them. “What do you say, dog?” he asked. “Think we could tackle some trees now?”