Eleanor Levine ~ Not Like Your Foot Is Amputated

I am suf­fer­ing from post-trau­mat­ic sink­hole syndrome.

I was awak­ened at 3:30 am last Thursday.

My broth­er said that my Audi 2013 was under water—in a sink­hole, where I had parked, in front of our house.

We went outside.

I was furi­ous because it was his house and his pipes. But alas, it was a water main break. Our pipes were old in this neigh­bor­hood along the Jersey Shore. As a result, the entire block did not have water.


Mind you, once, in Southwest Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, at 1 a.m., my GPS didn’t work because there was no inter­net con­nec­tion. My dog Hercules and I near­ly drove into a creek, but our high beams were on, and we prompt­ly hit reverse.


Regarding the sink­hole fias­co, I got up at 3 a.m. to use the bath­room. The toi­let did not work. I tried to fix it, but no luck, which was unusu­al, as I am nor­mal­ly a sea­soned latrine fix­er. I had lived in Manhattan and Philadelphia apart­ments and was as good as any plumber or land­lord at fix­ing the “ter­let,” as Archie Bunker called it.

Thereafter, I washed my hands. No water.

Harold!” I yelled into my brother’s bed­room, “there’s no water! Did you pay the bill?”

Harold was hav­ing a dream where he was in the mid­dle of a tran­sub­stan­ti­a­tion exper­i­ment at Heidelberg University in Germany.

You’re inter­rupt­ing God’s work!” he yelled at me, as Christ and the apos­tles made Harold part of their reli­gion in his dream.

We are not even Christians,” I said to him, “we are just hum­ble Jews who got out of Poland before it was too late.”

What’s that, Martin Luther?” he asked. Apparently both the papa­cy and Martin Luther were con­duct­ing a tran­sub­stan­ti­a­tion that involved Harold.

There’s no water… did you pay the bill?”

Huh? What?” Harold, annoyed at my inter­rup­tion, left the Counter-Reformation. He was bare­ly awake.

Did you pay the water bill?” I asked again, as if he were on the wit­ness stand.

 “Fuck you, cunt.” He yelled abrupt­ly, half think­ing I might be a Jesuit priest.

Apologize for call­ing me cunt!”

I tried train­ing Harold not to call me “cunt” as you’d instruct a labradoodle.



I’m sor­ry,” he mur­mured, with a vol­ume less over­bear­ing than when he used the “c” word.

Did you pay the water bill?”
He mut­tered some­thing about the meter need­ing to be checked—he received a post­card from the American Water Company— “I’m all paid up.”

Nonetheless, he phoned the water com­pa­ny and they dis­cov­ered, while speak­ing with him, that there had been a “water main break in our area”—no one on our street cur­rent­ly “has water,” and would he mind going out­side to see what it looks like?

Your car is under water,” he said.


Don’t get mad at me—I didn’t do anything.”

Why is my car in water?”

I jumped into gym clothes.

Do you have a flashlight?”

I already gave you a flashlight.”

Harold—this is an emergency!”

After much debate as to when he gave “it” to me and when I lost “it,” he grabbed his “oth­er” flashlight.

My Audi was immersed in a far more dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion than when it was parked in South Philly and crack addicts scratched stolen keys against it. It was in fecal water—submerged in the shit and piss of the block.

I’m going to dri­ve it out before it gets ruined,” I said.

I don’t think that’s a good idea,” he advised, “if you open the door, the shit water will ruin your interior.”

You don’t think I should dri­ve it?”
“No,” he blinked, also immobilized.

I’ll dri­ve it before it sinks,” I told myself, not know­ing that the elec­tri­cal insides had been ruined by water, though I def­i­nite­ly thought I could “save” my car.

If it’s not salt water, you should be okay,” the water com­pa­ny man, sent to res­cue us from this deprav­i­ty on our street, told me, unlike the Audi mechan­ic, who, while acknowl­edg­ing “the car still runs,” knew that my elec­tri­cal parts had been soaked to death.

It was 4:30 in the morn­ing. I was with­out words or understanding.

Sinkholes didn’t nor­mal­ly occur in Little Silver, NJ. I expect­ed to crash into anoth­er dri­ver at Sonic, per­haps at the new Starbucks dri­ve-through, but nev­er in a mil­lion years, in the com­fort zone of my New Jersey enclave, imag­ined my car would descend.

Our dog was yelp­ing and scrap­ing his paws against the win­dow. His breath was a vis­i­ble fog with scratch marks.


I returned to my house, real­iz­ing that the police and the water com­pa­ny did not con­sid­er me or my auto­mo­bile as impor­tant as the “sit­u­a­tion” though “I am the situation.”

On my cell phone I spoke with numer­ous peo­ple who were also up at 5 a.m.: Roadside Assistance, my AA spon­sor, and the water com­pa­ny, which had caused the damage.

This was like the 1960s Batman TV show when our heroes sunk into quick­sand or were eat­en by alli­ga­tors as the floor opened.


My friend Harriet, who lived in Santa Fe, and whose dia­bet­ic friend recent­ly had her leg ampu­tat­ed, did not sym­pa­thize with my plight. “It’s not like you had your leg ampu­tat­ed,” she texted. This was also the same Harriet who almost checked her­self into a men­tal insti­tu­tion because I vis­it­ed friends in Texas, which she con­sid­ered more like Saudi Arabia than Jerusalem. This was the first time she had texted me since our breakup over the red state visit.


The U.S. Department of the Interior, on its web­site, uses the below def­i­n­i­tion for sinkholes:

A sink­hole is an area of ground that has no nat­ur­al exter­nal sur­face drainage—when it rains, the water stays inside the sink­hole and typ­i­cal­ly drains into the sub­sur­face. Sinkholes can vary from a few feet to hun­dreds of acres and from less than 1 to more than 100 feet deep. Some are shaped like shal­low bowls or saucers where­as oth­ers have ver­ti­cal walls; some hold water and form nat­ur­al ponds.


Do you think that I will be reim­bursed for this? Has this ever hap­pened to you? Do you like your job?” I con­versed with Mel, the Roadside Assistance per­son, who assured me the tow truck would arrive in nine­ty min­utes, though he said that more than an hour ago.

My broth­er stared at me.

Harold returned to the Counter-Reformation era, still pon­der­ing his dream. Apparently, Martin Luther gave more com­pelling argu­ments than the Jesuits and so Jesus fol­lowed the for­mer monk.

Yes,” Harold coughed, “Martin Luther was the Trotsky of Christianity.”

Do you real­ize my fuck­ing car is under water?”

Jesus felt he was more ded­i­cat­ed than the papacy.”

Do they know you are Jewish?” I asked him. “Hold on Harold—the Roadside Assistance peo­ple are talking.”

Are you lone­ly?” my broth­er asked.


Is that why you have per­son­al con­ver­sa­tions with these peo­ple?”

Eat shit, Harold! You don’t even know them! What’s that Mel?”

Harold went upstairs and shut his door. It slammed and the dog ran in with him.

The cat jumped on my lap.

What’s that? Oh hi,” I said to Mel, the Roadside Assistance guy, “yeah…they said they were com­ing two hours ago…”

Harold’s door was closed.

There was an omi­nous non-noise that per­me­at­ed the house. My Audi was ruined. I was out thou­sands of dol­lars, though ther­a­py and the insur­ance com­pa­ny might bring redemption.

Still, it did not save me from the depres­sion of my car gone, with its blues CDs and my life of eat­ing fried shrimp in it and get­ting grease on the dri­ving wheel or hav­ing my dog bark so that I’d stop and let him pee, or of writ­ing poet­ry along Sandy Hook.

It was 5:45 a.m. I saw a few stars, what resem­bled the moon, which was not full. The birds chirped and the neigh­bor­hood fer­ret blinked at me through her win­dow. I took a pic­ture of the sky and put it on Instagram, hop­ing I’d get at least five likes.


Eleanor Levine’s writ­ing has appeared in more than 90 pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing Fiction, the Denver Quarterly, and Faultline Journal of Arts and Letters. Her poet­ry col­lec­tion, Waitress at the Red Moon Pizzeria, was pub­lished by Unsolicited Press. Her short sto­ry col­lec­tion, Kissing a Tree Surgeon, was pub­lished by Guernica Editions. She’s almost done with her first novel.