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by Ira Kennedy and Holly Scott

At midnight the rain finally stopped. Not that Later Billy noticed. He had spent the night in town with Mike the barkeep in the back room of the Bar None Bar and Bar-B-Que. He was in no shape to drive home the night before, and Later Billy really didn’t want to get sideways in a bar ditch. About nine in the morning he left town, and figured that the china cabinet would still be shaking when he got home to Lacey. She had been really angry when he told her the roads were flodded between town and home..

Flash Flood Creek had gone down considerably, but the road to the house was a mess. Every truck that had gone down the road cut ruts axle high and there were so many sloppy parts that Later Billy couldn’t keep the pick-up on a straight track. He’d be turning the steering wheel one way, but the pickup would go the other like it had a mind of its own.

When Later Billy pulled up to the yard gate he saw Lacey on the front porch with ten baskets piled high with laundry. He didn’t even get the usual "Hi, honey, I’m home", past his lips before Lacey said, "Billy, we got to go back to town. The washer broke down and all the clothes are wet and if you want to wear anything tomorrow to work, we’d better get going."

Later Billy didn’t figure on working tomorrow, what with the heavy rains and all, but he wasn’t about to tell Lacey. He looked up studying the sky. Clouds were gathering and turning that kind of blue-grey that says rain.

Lacey loaded the back of the pick-up while Later Billy retrieved the tarp from the shed, just in case. They headed back down the muddy road, sliding first this way, then that. With the hangover, Later Billy wasn’t feeling the least bit talkative. He was thinking, and partly hoping, that the whole outfit would just slide axle deep in the bar ditch so he could go back home and stretch out on the couch.

"Billy, stop and put the tarp on the clothes, they’ll get all muddy."

Later Billy figured the clothes were already dirty, but he was in so much trouble, and felt so bad that anything Lacey said, he did, just to keep the peace.

They rode to town in silence. Later Billy thought all the way in to town that the "Washerteria" next to the Bar None Bar and Bar-B-Que would be a perfect place for Lacy to fisish up the wash; course Later Billy planned to help himself to the ‘hair of the dog’. He was needing that right then very badly.

Lacey turned to him and said, "Billy, let’s go to the "Washerteria."" It was as if she was reading his mind.

"Sure, darlin.’" It was times like this that Billy treasured Lacey. Seems, every now and again, she’d do just what he wanted without him having to ask. Or, more to the point, wouldn’t dare ask.

When they pulled up to the "Washerteria", rain drops started pelting the ground something fierce. Billy wasted no time pulling the tarp off the pick-up while Lacey carried the laundry indoors and set about getting ten baskets of clothes into the only six washers that worked. All-the-while Billy was next door making good friends with a cool Lone Star.

As Later Billy ordered up this third Lone Star, Lacey, soaked to the skin, came into the Bar None and announced to the entire place that all of the clothes were finally in the dryer. The regulars sitting at the bar gave Later Billy that look they always give each other when they bring their women into the place during the day. Most of them were supposed to be somewhere else. Like, maybe, working. At that moment there was a crack of lightning and thunder. Then the power all over town went down.

"Cheesus," Later Billy responded, cradling his Lone Star. He knew the clothes were no where near dry. That was when Lacey slammed the back door of the Bar None Bar and Bar-B-Que, and sounding more than tee’d off said to the pitch-black room, "Billy, let’s go!"

"Later, Billy," one of the regulars said, glad that it was Billy and not him having to leave the Bar None Bar and Bar-B-Que.

Later Billy wrangled the sopping wet clothes and then wrestled with the tarp and finally covering the clothes, set out for the house.

"Gol Dog it, Lacey, it’s more’n coming down." Lacey had to agree with him there. The wipers were on full speed and the pick-up was crawling at twenty miles per hour and they couldn’t see a thing down that deserted Ranch to Market Road ‘cept rain in the headlights.

Lacey knew the creek was going to be on the rise, and they still had eight miles to go, not counting the three on the unpaved county road.

"Gee-Josephat this was going to be the trip form Hell", thought Later Billy. His worst fears were realized upon reaching Flash Flood Creek. Billy could see from the road that the creek was on a tear.

"How we gonna get home?" Lacey demanded.

Later Billy didn’t want to remind Lacey this was her idea in the first place. The laundry was as wet as ever, and now the roads were sure to be worse. If she’d a just waited till later tomorrow they wouldn’t be in this fix.

"Lace, if the current ain’t too fast, I can make it across."

"How we gonna know that?"

"Well, darlin’, you gotta go out in the middle and see how high the water is, and see if the current will bowl you over. I can tie you off with the come-along."

Lacey looked at Later Billy like he just escaped from a mental institution, but realized that he had to stay in the truck and work the wrench, which she didn’t know nothing about, in case she was swept off the crossing. That, plus the fact that this was probably the only way that they were gonna get home.

She jumped out of the truck, pulled her parka over he head and waded out to the middle of the low water crossing. With each step he felt the water surge, but not too strong. Finally it filled her Ropers and came about two inches above her knees. "It don’t get colder than this," she thought, but told Later Billy through the open window, "I think we can get across, but we gotta hurry."

As she swung into the cab of the truck, she heard her feet squish inside her Ropers and saw a stream of water come out of the seams. Lacey sighed, "Well, there goes a perfectly good pair of boots."

Later Billy revved that engine and pulled the pick-up through the creek to the other side, before it stalled on the ‘up’ side of the hill.

"Tarnation," Billy swore, when he realized that the clothes were sliding out of the back of the truck, into the creek bed.

"Oh my God." Lacey gasped, as she jumped out of the cab to go retrieve all the clothes drifting in the ever rising creek.

While he watched Lacey from the rear view mirror, Later Billy reached under the front seat and found a last Lone Star. That’s some rinse cycle, he mused.