To see her dying mother, Angie flies from Albany to Seattle: February 28, 200l. The plane touches down; the earth begins to quake. Everything wobbles. The pavement wavers. Things crack and fall and, after that, no planes land.
Her mother’s nursing home roommate, a Jamaican woman with eyes dark as her Bible, tells Angie: “I know you anywhere. You so like her. Lord love your mommy, she never stop smiling.”
Angie looks at her mother—shrunken doll, face frozen. Rictus grin, false rapture. Toes turning black, delicately curled.
Seattle newscaster tells this story: Frantic Mother calls home, reaches Babysitter. Mother screams into her cell phone, “Quake!” Babysitter grabs Baby, flees. Seconds later, the house rides the mud straight into the Sound, beams crackling all the way. Mother hears it go, not knowing.
Angie’s mother won’t die on schedule—only her feet are ready. The surgeon wants to amputate but Angie says no. She signs papers: No. She boards the plane home. Snow seals the east coast. Her plane diverts to Philly, skids in on ice-slick tarmac. From the airport Econo-Lodge, she calls Seattle, hears this: while Angie was in the air, her mother suffered her final stroke.
Angie has bronchitis, coughs all night in the strange smoky bed.
Later, someone who’s heard just the funny parts of Angie’s travel story says, “Wow. A Coast-to-Coast Tour of Natural Disasters!”
Angie grins, rapt with the grief she cannot speak.