Fires during the flood

by Max Saucedo

On October 1998, the Central Texas Flood swept through, claiming more than $750 million in damages, as well as 31 lives. Thousands were uprooted. Everyone had a story. This here’s the story of Bart McCarther: his life and death during the Flood.

Now, Bart made his money doing jobs most considered dirty. No task was too dirty for Bart. Running guns, blowing up cars (not his concern if anyone was in them), setting fire to a local gang’s bikes only to be hired by that same gang to blow up the house of the man that hired him to burn the bikes (funny story that one) — he did it all without blinking. It’s not that Bart didn’t have morals. Money was just renting them for the time being.

But, like his momma told him before she died, this line of work would eventually lead him to an ugly death.

Bart was a God-fearing man, but he wasn’t a particular fan of pre-determined fate and all that. That was for his momma to believe in her old age. After she passed, he filled out the paperwork and started walking past the various units when he saw the rain beginning. No big deal, it rained all the time in Austin. The news was blaring with reports about flash floods and warnings. Poor saps, he thought, there’s a lot more that can kill you than water.

Like a 9 mm pistol, Benelli shotgun and a Colt .44. Much like those carried by the three men standing in the doorway of the hospital. Yup, that stuff can kill you a lot easier than a flood. The lead man, Benelli, pointed his gun up and pulled the trigger. The blast echoed throughout the hospital. “Everyone whose name ain’t Bart McCarther should leave now.” Panicked people ran past the trio, splashing water everywhere. Thunder rolled and lightning flashed. Rain must be picking up, Bart thought. No time to think about that though. Benelli was aiming for him.

Bart dove behind a reception desk as round after round began to decimate it. Screw this, he thought. Time to go on the attack. Bart grabbed a fallen fire extinguisher and threw it hard over the desk. A small explosion confirmed his hope: They’d bought the misdirection and blew it up with gunfire, leaving themselves blinded.

Bart slid out from his spot and dashed for the elevators. Water splashed at his feet. There must be a leak somewhere, he thought. He went to the third floor: Children’s Burn Unit. As he exited he pressed the fire escape button. That should take some time. He blocked the stairwell door anyway to stall.

The place seemed deserted. An open window nearby had been left open. Water and mud had been tracked in. The gale winds were blowing the curtains and rain poured in. He rushed into the nearest empty room. Or so he thought. He crouched against the doorway, eyes trained on the stairwell door. A tiny voice from behind startled him. “Who are you Mister?” It was a girl, burned on the face and hands. “Burn unit,” Bart muttered, “right.”

“Look don’t mind me little lady, you just get under that bed there and keep your head down.” He turned around as he heard steps coming from the stairs. The girl ignored him and came over next to his side. She whispered, “Are bad men coming for me again?” Bart twisted his head toward her. Jeez this girl doesn’t give up. “What do you mean, ‘again’?” he asked. She whispered, “I was playing in my house and there was a boom, and then the house was on fire and my daddy wasn’t there. He was always busy hanging out with his friends I think … Mommy tried to pull me out, but not before this happened,” she said, pointing to her face.

Bart was stunned. In his profession, men weren’t stunned easily. But there she stood before him. The evidence was damning: Could this be the daughter of the biker whose house he set fire to? His thought was interrupted by another gunshot. Benelli kicked the door in, screaming, “Come out McCarther! I’ll shoot every damn kid in here until you do!” Wind and rain beat against the walls. Water soaked everything.

Bart stared at the girl. She had run under her bed, scared. He couldn’t change what had happened.

Well friends, I wish I could say that Bart drew his gun and shot it out with those three men; that he walked out of that hospital wounded but alive. But he didn’t. I don’t know what went on in his head those last few seconds. Maybe he thought about God and why he’d been put in this position. Maybe he thought about his mother’s last words. Or maybe he thought about the little girl he had maimed. But he didn’t.

He walked into the hallway, unarmed, and died a man. Little more can be said about the life and death of Bart McCarther.

 

— Max Saucedo is a criminal justice freshman.