Friday, October 01, 2010

Flash Fiction Friday: Waiting for the Rain: Or, Through a Season

Irvin Stevens just wanted it to rain. One long, solid downpour that lasted all day. That’s it. He wasn’t asking for much, was he? The Lord had surely made it rain before, right? Looking out at the barren fields, Irvin wasn’t so sure. But if it didn’t rain soon, they weren’t gonna make it through the winter. That’s how he saw it.     
     No rain meant no crops. No crops meant no harvest. No harvest meant no money. And no money meant no heat.
     Plenty of heat now, though,” he said. “And not a cloud in the sky.”

Lauren Mills moved to Texas to escape the gloominess of Seattle. It was dry, hot, and vast, and the move had been one of the best decisions she’d ever made. Everyone she knew and loved was back in Seattle, but so was everything she hated. She couldn’t stand being depressed anymore. She had to get out while she could.
     So she found a job in the Lone Star state, leased an apartment, and drove thirty-two hours to her new home. Right in the middle of the longest drought on record. Ninety-one days since the last rain, and no promise of any in the foreseeable future. She could stand another ninety-one days.

It was like digging through concrete. It didn’t matter how sharp his shovel was if the ground was unyielding. A summer of no rain would do that to the earth. “If it would just rain,” Glenn grumbled, wiping the sweat from his brow. He’d been digging for a while now, and the hole was just barely big enough. The sun would be gone in less than an hour, taking all the remaining light with it. He looked at the body lying next to the mound of discarded dirt. She was a pretty thing. But they always were.
     He wrapped her in too-short linens, placed a kiss on her cold forehead, and rolled her into the pit. She twisted and landed face up, mouth flung open, purple hand-shaped bruises around her throat, barely visible in the late evening shadows. He picked up the shovel and started refilling the hole.

He had a name, but it hadn’t been used in years. Nobody wanted to know a homeless man’s name, especially not one that looked as rough as he did. He fingered the hideous scar that ran down his face, born at the end of a madman’s blade. Scar, that’s what everybody called him now. He didn’t much care for the name, but it gave him some level of pride.
     And living out on the streets, you took pride wherever you could find it.
     A group of clubbers walked by, not sparing him a second glance. A couple here and there, hands held at the waist. He counted forty-two people in all that passed him, and only four had stopped to give him something. Eight dollars and seventy-five cents. All in all, a pretty good night.
     “At least it’s not raining,” he said. But he knew in his heart that was.

They were calling for rain. Finally. But Ruth Dickerson didn’t want it to rain. Not yet, anyway. She’d been waiting all week for Saturday, and now it was looking like she wasn’t going to get to have her birthday party outside after all.
     “It’s not fair,” she told her mom. “We’ve already got the bouncy barn and games set up.”
     “I know sweetheart, but we need the rain.”
     Her mom smiled. “Because, if it doesn’t rain, then food doesn’t grow. And what about our water from the sink? Or the shower? Rain re-fills rivers and lakes when they run low, and they’re all very low right now.”
     It didn’t make sense. “But why can’t it just wait one more stinkin’ day? I don’t want it to rain.”
     “I know you don’t. And who knows, it might hold off until after your party?”
     “I hope so.”
     Her mom laughed and kissed her on the forehead. “Goodnight Ruth. I love you.”
     “I love you, too.”

The wind was up, howling through the trees a mournful dirge that shook Caroline to her bones. She shouldn’t have stayed up late reading that scary book. Now everywhere she looked she saw him. Shifting in the curtains. Standing in the corner. Lying right beside her. The Shadow Man, come to gobble her up.
     Lightning flashed, illuminating the room for a second with eerie white light. Curse her small bladder, she had to pee, but she dared not get up. She remained motionless, heart pumping violently, listening to the sound of the moaning in the branches. She wondered if it would rain tonight or if it would just be another dry storm.     
     Thinking about rain reminded her of the pressure in her bladder.
     She slammed her eyes shut and buried herself below the covers.

Sean was awake long before the sun spread its colors across the sky. Too much on his mind to sleep, he supposed he’d been awake since he lay down and turned the light off last night. Jenna was still sleeping, her faint snores rising and falling through the hollow walls.
     He grabbed his bible and cup of coffee and headed out to the porch. The mid-August morning was unusually cool. Sean eased onto the swing, gently rocking back and forth with its bounce. He stared out at his dead yard, at the brown trees, all dried up and left wanting. Another metaphor for his life.
     No matter how much he desired otherwise, his life never seemed to take off. Day after day of routine left him thirsty for something more. Just once he’d like to jump off the high dive and plunge into the depths of life.     
     He wanted the calm of his life to be wracked with a storm of excitement. He wanted to be drenched in a downpour, not of problems, but of something grand. If only he knew what.
     He sipped at his coffee and prayed. Most of all he wanted to be closer to God. He wanted to find his purpose in life and pursue it, not whatever it was he was doing now. When he finished, he flipped open his bible and read for a while, searching for truth and meaning to apply to his life.
     His coffee was cold when he closed the book and once again stared out at his yard. Thick clouds had moved in, covering the sky with a grey cotton blanket. A gust blew and a speck of something cold and wet hit Sean’s cheek.
     The clouds opened up and the rain began to fall.

Word Count: 1099


Jay Belt said...

Wow, fantastic little piece! I love the different opinions all based around the same subject. And I really, truely loved that line in the homeless guy's section. "Scar, that’s what everybody called him now. He didn’t much care for the name, but it gave him some level of pride.
And living out on the streets, you took pride wherever you could find it."

Just wonderful!

logankstewart said...

@Jay: Thank you. I've been thinking about our lack of rain in KY this summer and how crappy my yard looks and the idea was born. Glad you liked it.

David Wagner said...

Terrific! Did you just fire this out because it was Friday, or has this been under construction for a while?

logankstewart said...

@David: Thank you very much. The idea hit on Wednesday afternoon; I let it mull around for a few hours and cranked it out by Thursday afternoon and did a quick run-through edit for Friday. I've just been thinking about the idea of what makes a story (ever since the post on Tuesday) and this came to mind. Plus, it's not really rained here in KY in a long while.

Thanks once again.