(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Swollen from torrential rain, the river near the narrator’s village has been rising for three days. Everything is going from bad to worse. The rain has ruined the harvest, and the narrator’s aunt has died. Moreover, La Serpentina, the cow belonging to his twelve-year-old sister, has been swept away by the river and drowned.

The noise of the river awakens the narrator. It is so loud that he thinks the roof of his house is collapsing. As he gets up, the noise grows louder and closer. The river has a rotted odor, and there is no sign that the rain will let up. When the narrator looks toward the village, he finds that the river has jumped its banks and is slowly rising along the main street. The water rushes into the house of a neighbor woman named Tambora. On the far banks of the river, a large tree in the dead aunt’s yard—the only tamarind tree in the village—has been uprooted and swept away, dramatically proving that this flood is the largest in many years.

In the afternoon the narrator and his sister Tacha climb a ravine above the river, which they watch in fascination for hours. The river’s roaring is so loud that it drowns out the voices of people near it.

From other people discussing the river’s damage, they learn of La Serpentina’s demise. A man has seen her washed away, although just why the cow drowned cannot be determined. Perhaps she tried to cross the river; more probably the water reached her while she...

(The entire section is 600 words.)