The School On The Hill – by Tim Clayton (Adult)

It was still raining after twenty-six days when they sent out Swann on a raft built from wooden doors. Thick with gloss paint, they would not soak up the water too fast. They lost sight of him in a squall before he reached the horizon. He never returned.
Food supplies got low. Some shared with others, some stole. Old Kitch starved himself rather than take from the young. He died two weeks after Swann left; the day the rains ended.
Golab left on a second raft; one they built with tight bellies, broken hands, and the last of the nails. He was an unlikable, peaceless man, but he was the strongest among them after Swann. They watched him until he became a faraway dot in the brown waters. They didn’t know if they could trust him to return.
Weeks passed. They had to lock Sullivan in a room when he lost his mind. One morning he disappeared and, unlike the hated Golab, they hoped they would not see him again.
Retha could no longer hold her child inside. During the labor, they used the only clean towels in the large, old school house where they had taken refuge. She called the boy Leo and loved him so hard that he grew and thrived, in spite of the desperate world around him.
Weeks after Golab had abandoned them, the waters receded a little so they could swim in through the highest windows of the barn down the hill. They found rotten straw and floating birds nests. In the corner was a crate of tinned peaches that they floated back to the school house and ate greedily.
Only Retha was awake one morning, nursing Leo as dawn broke. She saw a speck on the horizon, then heard a distant motor. Something was coming.
She did not wake the others. She watched in silence as Golab climbed down from the motorboat and waded to the front door. He strode in, whistling, carrying a bloom of shamrocks. He gave them to Retha.
Learn more about the contest which inspired this story:  Nutshell Narratives 2019-02
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