The hardwood floor refinishers took five days to complete the work, when they promised three. Shar and Michael were forced to spend extra nights in the tiny cabin advertised as Cattail Cottage, the place they began to call Frog Hovel not too long after arrival. “Forced,” maybe, was not the right word, because they chose to rent, rather than stay with friends. It seemed less constrained, cheap, and close by. The floor being refinished was dark walnut they’d paid dearly for ten years ago and the floor refinishers – brothers Hank and Robel – had only experienced oak. They commented on finding a walnut floor installed in the Pacific Northwest and asked Shar if she was from Philadelphia. She was not. In the small town of Oso, two hours northeast, a catastrophic mudslide took place while Shar and Michael were huddled in the Frog Hovel. Perceptions of mudslides as mild gushes that occasionally blocked train tracks were shattered nationwide. News agencies tracked the body count, and labeled the others missing. But everyone knew they weren’t coming back. Mud had rushed in at sixty miles an hour, swallowing houses, cars, and loved ones. Shar became obsessed with the disaster’s media coverage, especially the way her favorite evening anchor was put into a yellow anorak and placed at the nearest Grange hall. Shar and Michael watched the news mostly in bars, because the $50 a night Frog Hovel was the size of a thimble, so low-ceilinged you felt like Alice when she grew, so they tried to return just before bed. They felt homeless, vagabond, transient. The feeling was uncomfortable, they were too old and settled to need to feel this way. When Shar and Michael returned at night, usually drunk, there were one to six frogs clinging to the front door. The rest were unison-croaking in the wetlands behind the cabin, so loud the freeway noise was gone, swallowed. Hank and Robel left the key on the mahogany buffet after calling to say they were done. Shar and Michael took their shoes off on the porch and let their stocking-feet slide onto the wood. Light poured in from the den window and immediately illuminated an ill-selected refinisher. The beautiful walnut was rippled, and it was not buffer marks, they could feel the ripples on their cottoned soles. Like a foot massage. They smelled the remnant poison gasses of the applied stain, but that was nothing compared to the ripples. Those were for good. Shar began to cry. “At least we’re home,” Michael said, taking her elbow and pushing her forward into the dining room to see the extent of the amateur job. Shar turned the TV on. The mudslide counts now included the number of homes lost, mortgages that would still require payments. Pastor Celia tied ribbons on a bridge railing and said to the newscaster, “Yellow ribbons mean they’re coming home.” This wasn’t some Vietnam hope Tony Orlando and Dawn could sing about. No one was coming home. Who was “Dawn” anyway, Shar had always wondered. It was a sadness to tie those ribbons, in Shar’s mind, as if you could will the missing to appear. It called to mind images of arms flailing above the brown muck, or worse yet, not flailing, but still, a dead forearm, gold band visible on a finger. Michael and Shar slid on the wood floor in the socks they’d worn at the Frog Hovel, which inexplicably demanded shoe removal for its vinyl floors. Shar speed-dialed Robel about the ridges and he said, “Put the furniture back – well, not for three days, but when you do, you’ll never notice it.” They had not been told three days for putting the furniture back, and Shar’s mother-in-law was due for dinner on Saturday. Shar wailed and threw the flip phone at the CNN crew on the screen, who she felt didn’t belong in tiny Oso. She grabbed the remote, a more comfortable device, and tuned in her anorak anchor, who really had nothing to report. The ripples were real. The floors would need refinishing again. Michael would calmly retain the check he planned to mail, but they’d be moving out again. Transient, homeless, probably for more days than estimated. This time they’d stay with friends. Shar imagined wine, dinners the friends would fix, long conversations. The way they should’ve done it the first time. Who knew when it all would be taken away, the house, the friends, the very idea of life?