Marshall Chapman, photographed by Anthony Scarlati

One thing that struck me in the aftermath of the Great Flood was the contrast between total devastation and unscathed. My husband and I were among the fortunate. Our basement remained dry as a bone.

Sunday morning (May 2), as the heavens continued unleashing Biblical torrents of rain on our fair city, I turned on my computer to check the neighborhood message board. Our neighborhood is the historic Richland-West End district. Even though we were spared major flooding from nearby Richland Creek, it seemed everyone’s basement was flooding. I read with horror accounts of neighbors wading through chest-high water, desperately trying to reach their fuse boxes ahead of the rising tide. One message suggested everyone check their gutters. One clogged downspout, it said, and the water pouring from your gutter could not only flood your basement but weaken your house’s foundation.

Later, while having breakfast with my husband, I happened to glance outside where, to my horror, I saw a rushing stream of water gushing from both sides of one of our gutters. It looked like Niagara Falls out there.

“Damn!” I said, “Would you look at that!”

Chris seemed unfazed, whereas I was on red alert. A rumble of thunder sounded in the distance.

“I’m going outside,” I announced.

With that, I stood up and shed my clothes—all my clothes—before donning a pink-flowered plastic shower cap (I’d had my hair done at Heads Up in Green Hills the day before and didn’t want to mess it up, okay?) and walked out the door.

Chris just shook his head, his expression a mixture of disbelief, resignation, and pride. Chris seems to have grown used to my idiosyncrasies over years. That’s one of the good things about a long-term relationship. Behaviors once deemed exasperating become charming. Chris’s motto for me has always been: “Always expect the unexpected from Marshall.” He swears one day he’s going to write an article called “States I Find My Wife In When I Arrive Home from Work.”

As I strode buck naked across the yard to the tool shed (in my pink-flowered plastic shower cap), the rain was coming down so hard, I was confident my neighbors couldn’t see me. And even if they could, they’d be thinking, did I just see what I thought I saw?

I set my lightweight “lady ladder” beneath the water cascading from the gutter. The cool water gushed all over my naked body, and, I’ll admit, it felt damned exhilarating. (Note: There’s a lot to be said about not having wet clothes weigh you down while working in the rain.) I reached up and felt for the wet leaves blocking the downspout. With Chris watching from the kitchen, I began throwing big wads of wet leaves toward the ground. Then I heard a wonderful sound. The sound of water—lots and lots of water—being sucked into the downspout, as the water level in the gutter dropped dramatically.

Few things in life are better than good sex. A lovingly prepared meal made with fresh, locally-grown ingredients, perhaps. Playing music with friends to an appreciative audience. Add to that the unclogging of a stopped-up gutter during a record-breaking rainstorm, and the list is complete.

by Marshall Chapman

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