Rain

 

Rain. It can wash away the dirty stains on a car or pavement. It can feed plants, help them grow into beautiful, strong flowers or trees. It can eliminate the parched feeling in a child's throat. It can give you the needed refreshed feeling on a hot summer's day. It can create a rainbow illusion with the sun's rays much to our joyed surprise. It can destroy villages just as well as it can fill an empty dam with clean, pure water. It can also fall, full of acid, onto a field of crops and kill every single one of them. It can ruin a farmer's season-worth of tireless planting and struggling growth of harvest. It can likewise disrupt an eco-system  or wash away land from its original placement in a cruel effortless process called erosion. Rain. It is not only a form of an Earthly element that for some scientifically proven reason falls from the sky, usually out of a grey cloud, that always seems so angry, so lonely among the puffy white clouds, but it can also be a signal of a change of seasons, when summer blends into autumn, and winter blends into spring, causing streams to run down mountains and pastures and driveways and paths...

     Rain can wash away all traces of a past life and bring with it the hope or misery of the future.

     It happened on the night the rain fell the hardest. It pelted mercilessly at the flat surface of the roof, the drops resounding for ages in the empty rooms of the second floor, while the fire crackled warmly in our living room fireplace, the only light in the whole house. I can still recall the way the old copper roof whined helplessly, bending under the pressure of the full water droplets. The rain would not cease, and I thought the roof would cave in, but it held.

     I remember it had been raining for a whole week. The pastures were overflowing with muddy brown water, so we had decided not to take the horses out. They stood quietly in their stalls, snuffling at the hay and at times lifting their elegant, long-maned heads to the ceiling, curious as to what the clattering sound was.

     Meanwhile, the rain went pitter-patter. Pitter-patter. Calmly, as if the most ordinary thing in life. As if a clock simply ticking off the hours we had left. The dogs were restlessly pacing the living room, where my Grandfather sat in his favourite grey armchair, comfortably tucked into a woolen blanket, watching the fire crackle as it broke the carefully layed out timbre in the fireplace. I had dropped my bag by the coffee table, kissed my Grandfather on the cheek and mounted the wooden stairs, two at a time, excited to watch the rain from the round window of my mother's room.

     Mother had died when I was eight. I was nine now. Just a kid, but already mature enough to take care of my ill Grandfather while father worked endless hours at the firestation, filling in during the night shifts as well as the early morning hours when I was still sleeping. He returned home and slept from ten to four, and then was off to work again before I got home from school. Grandfather was ill with the same disease that had killed mother, only he was stronger. She had always been fragile, thin boned, pale, with freckles on her nose and cheeks, and a very soft, sweet voice that would earn her a liking from any sort of person. I missed her. I had wanted her to come to my school play the day before she died, but she had been too weak to stand up. Cancer had wanted her more. Stupid cancer. Who was he to take her away from me when I needed her most? Grandfather had been ill for many years, and she knew I couldn't take care of him on my own, but she just...let go. She stopped fighting, and I blame her for that more than I blame cancer for taken her.

 

***

 

     I smiled, watching the rain patter harder against the window panel. I had been sitting here since that afternoon when I came home from school. It was early morning now, a Saturday. I would have thought the sun would come out, but, even as I woke up this morning, my head resting on the wide panel, I could hear the intensifying pattern of rain drops falling onto the moist ground outside the house.

     Grandfather stirred downstairs, also waking from his deep slumber. The fire still crackled downstairs, quieter now. He had become more and more accustomed to the dark, and so the only light he allowed for was from the fireplace, as he said it gave him peace and solace. To me, it seemed a brooding wonder – fire. I was often scared to come up close to it and had to close my eyes if I did so to prevent them from welling with tears. The fire, though tucked safely inside the fireplace, somehow ate at my eyes, made them water to the extent that I had started hating standing anywhere within close reach of the licking red flames.

     I let my mind wander. A bright picture began building in my young mind. An endless sea of blue water spread as far as my imagination would let me see, the expanses of water ripping strongly under the heat of the sun. I watched as a sudden burst of light somewhere up high in the sky sent a fiery ball of flames plummetting down into the deep blue waters. It sizzled there for a while before one of the waves rolled over it as a man would walk over a tiny helpless ant and not notice, extinguishing the bursting life of the flame.

     I was yanked back to reality as a large grey figure suddenly crossed my peripheral vision. My eyes darted back down, seeking anxiously for what I hoped desperately to have been just another spike of my imagination, or maybe the rain playing tricks on my eyes. It wasn't. I watched as clear as day my Grandfather – my old, sick, bow-backed Grandfather – shuffling slowly towards the end of the driveway, where one of the gates had swung open with the coming of the wind during the night. I had seen him do this many times before after my mother’s death, sure that he was hallucinating in his grief for his lost daughter. I had always stopped him, had run out into the cold, taken him by the hand, and walked him back home to his favourite grey armchair. But this time, I could not gain the strength to stand up and stop him. It felt as if some unknown force was pulling me back, refraining me from doing what I had been taught to do all those months ago by my father. He cared for grandfather, but he had never understood him, never quite acknowledged his perception of losing an only child. I had tried to, but had never succeeded. Maybe now I did.

     I lifted my gaze to the open gate, worried it would be torn off if the winds came back tonight. And I saw her. Standing there, rigid and strong as a statue, staring at the space before grandfather. She seemed so forlorn, so calm and yet sad. I stretched out my arm only to collide my hand with the glass of the window.

     Then I heard a yelp. It sounded like a little puppy’s cry, and call for aid. I turned to where grandfather had fallen on the wet ground, the rain still pouring, as if it had no care for the pain it was inflicting. I raced down the stairs and out onto the driveway, almost falling over the school bag I had left by the coffee table yesterday. I begged my shaking skinny legs to carry me faster.

     Grandfather lay there, simple and motionless, helpless in his pitiful state. I kneeled down, desperately urging him to wake, but I already knew the answer to the question I did not want to ask. I had intended to go downstairs as soon as I had woken up to make breakfast for grandfather, but I had been distracted by the falling rain. If only I had taken better care of grandfather, who had loved me so much, always treated me so well when I was little. I doubt he even knew my name anymore, but I didn’t mind. Please wake up.

     A powerful gust of wind pushed me so that I almost fell, but I fought back angrily, digging my heels into the sharp edged gravel that hurt my bare feet. I ruffled his coat, tried to pull him up as I begged and willed him to wake, all to no avail. I cursed at the selfish rain, still pounding hard onto our pale skin, drenching our clothes to the finest cloth. My childish voice resounded across the empty yard, shrill and soft, so that I doubt even the horses in their stalls heard my pitiful cries.

     I stood up, lifting my face to the sky in a last prayer, knowing only a child could hope for some sort of a miracle. Adults strived to gain what they aimed for, and a child's single-minded desire could never be compared to the pain of hard work these grown ups suffered to achieve what they had wanted to for years.

     I felt a tear run down my left cheek. I let it.

     I looked over to the gate, a little spark of hope telling me she was still there. What if she could help? She had not come back for nothing, if not to help. My heart drummed so loud that it seemed to match the pattering echo of the rain. My ears felt hot and swollen despite the cold air.

     She was not there. Come back.

     The rain was falling so hard, I would be surprised if anyone was able to distinguish the fat droplets of water from the salty tears streaking down my face like an endless current washing away the past.

     Rain can wash away the dirty stains on a car or pavement. It can breathe life into flowers and trees. It can give you the needed refreshed feeling on a hot summer's day. It can cheer up a crying baby with a so very real image of a rainbow, shimmering beautifully in the sun's rays. Rain can ruin a farmer's season-worth of growing crops just as easily as it can feed his struggling harvest. It is not only a form of an Earthly element that for some scientifically proven reason falls from the sky, but it can also be a sign of changing seasons, with summer blending into autumn, and winter blending into spring. Rain can bring misery as well as hope in that it is free to give love and then take it away in the form of a mother, or a grandfather, or something as simple as a raindrop.

     And then just like that the rain stopped.

Comments

Dear Anna, I have read some of the material posted here and would like to know if you have or are going to get published. This is good quality work and with several stories could be published as a collection. I love your mysterious style and sometimes atmospheric Dickension descriptive work, It certainly drew me in. If you want to discuss publishing please contact me. ray@thestorymint.com 

The symbolism in the opening paragraph is powerful. We know the story is about more than rain and we find out about that as we go on. I also was impressed by the way you closed the story as you began it by bracketing it with an oration on rain. Gosh what a lovely piece of writing. I also was drawn in by the atmospheric , brooding sadness.