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Wipeout
About the Author: Adam Meyer is a screenwriter, novelist and short story writer. He's written TV movies and series for Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, and National Geographic, and is the author of the novel The Last Domino. His short fiction has recently appeared in the anthologies Crime Travel and Seascape: The Best New England Crime Stories 2019.


The inspection was going even better than Dominic had hoped. The guy they’d sent looked a little younger than Dominic himself, maybe mid-twenties, fresh-faced and blond, a corn-fed Midwestern-type so pale it was like he’d never stepped foot on the sand that gave Rockaway Beach its name. He had no clipboard, just an iPad, which he snapped pictures with as he moved this way and that around the basement. His name was Timothy Anderson but he said most people just called him “Tim.”

Tim crouched against the floor, his hair flopping down into his face. “Bathroom was here, right?”

“I, ah …” Ma was flapped, just the way she’d been in the days after the storm.

“That’s right,” Dominic said.

Tim took a shot of what was left of the broken toilet, the porcelain now yellow and green, and made a note in his iPad.

Dominic looked around. It was fourteen months since Hurricane Norma had swept in off the Atlantic and flooded the basement. If he closed his eyes, he could still see it, brownish water seeping in from beneath the window frames and around the back door.

“You really got wiped out,” Tim said, snapping another picture. Of what, Dominic had no idea. The whole place had been reduced to empty gray walls and stray bits of loose insulation. Wherever you stood it looked pretty much the same. “You really think you’re going to rebuild down here?”

“I hope so,” Ma said, glancing at Dominic. “We’re just not sure …”

“What she means is, it depends,” Dominic said. “On how much money you guys are willing to fork over.”

Tim laughed like Dominic had just cracked a good one. But it was no joke. Ma had already spent most of her savings cleaning up the mess: pumping out seawater, knocking down soggy sheetrock, and ripping up moldy carpet. They didn’t have flood insurance and the homeowners’ policy was a joke. This Rebuild Rockaway program was their last hope to get some money to cover their losses.

“We’ll do everything we can to help,” Tim said, looking around. “That’s a promise.”

After a few more minutes of showing Tim around, Dominic led the way up to the kitchen. Tim slid his iPad into a shoulder bag, smiling. “You seem like a good candidate for the program. If you’re lucky, you should get enough money to replace the drywall, buy a new washer-dryer, maybe put up some fresh paint.”

Dominic felt his whole body tense. “What about my stuff?”

Did he really need to remind this guy of all of the things he’d lost down there? He’d already listed them on the application: a fifty-inch television, his Sony Playstation and two dozen games, a thousand dollars worth of clothes. Not to mention all the comic books and DVDs and the Memory Foam mattress with two sets of silk sheets.

Tim frowned. “It’s not my call, it’s my supervisor’s. But we only reimburse for what’s necessary to make your home habitable, including basic appliances. Non-essential elements like carpeting and—”

“You don’t even pay for goddamn carpeting? I thought you people were gonna help us.”

“I went over this with your mother on the phone.” Tim glanced at Ma, then back at Dominic. “Our grants are only meant to cover essential materials and major appliances. If you’d had a kitchen down there, for example, you’d get a lot more money. Or if your heating system had been installed more recently.”

So that was why he’d asked about when they’d put in the furnace. Dominic knew they should’ve been more vague, but Ma was right in there, telling the guy it was twenty-five years old.

“So what’re we looking at?” Dominic asked. “How much money we gonna get?”

“We’d have to run a full accounting of—”

“How goddamn much?”

“Sir, these grants aren’t meant to replace all that you’ve lost. The goal is to give folks just enough to start over and then hopefully you can do the rest for yourself.” Tim adjusted his shoulder bag, looking away. “If I had to guess I’d say maybe fifteen hundred dollars. Two thousand tops.”

“That’s a fucking joke.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way but I sincerely hope—”

“Get out.” 

Tim looked at Dominic, blinking. Clearly, he wasn’t used to being talked to like this.

“Okay, well, thank you for your time. Someone from our office will be in touch.”



This story appears in our JUL 2020 Issue
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