Lights Out

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Lights Out

by Alex Beasley
Southern Cultures, Vol. 28, No. 4: Moral/Economies

“At every turn, those of us withstanding the storm were expected to act as though what we were up against was scarcity while the evidence of our abundance was plain to see.”

I have a scrap of paper I’ve kept, perhaps perversely, for over a year now. It’s an inventory of all the water I had in my house, where it came from, and whether it was potable. The bathtub was filled with water we could use to flush toilets, and if we got desperate, we could boil it to wash dishes or hands. A neighbor had trudged over to bring us a few plastic camping jugs of boiled drinkable water, but those supplies were dwindling. There was a stock pot of water on the stove, and, for the first time in five days, I could boil it, since the power was back on, and I had managed to relight the pilot light. I was compulsively calculating numbers in my head as I scrambled to use the microwave to heat my kids’ lunch, handing off a hot meal while the power lasted. How long could we make it on the water we had? Maybe I could catch some melting snow in a bucket and boil that, as long as the power lasted long enough to complete the process. Why did flushing a toilet require so much damn water?