THE DAY IT RAINED FOREVER
The Day it Rained Forever
In a Season of Calm Weather
The End of the Beginning
The Wonderful Ice-Cream Suit
The Marriage Mender
The Town Where No One Got Off
Icarus Montgolfier Wright
Almost the End of the World
Dark They were and Golden-eyed
Here there be Tygers
Perchance to Dream
The Time of Going Away
The Little Mice
The Sunset Harp
A Scent of Sarsaparilla
And the Rock Cried Out
The Strawberry Window
THE DAY IT RAINED FOREVER
THE hotel stood like a hollowed dry bone under the very centre of the desert sky where the sun burned the roof all day. All night, the memory of the sun stirred in every room like the ghost of an old forest fire. Long after dusk, since light meant heat, the hotel lights stayed off. The inhabitants of the hotel preferred to feel their way blind through the halls in their never-ending search for cool air.
This one particular evening Mr Terle, the proprietor, and his only boarders, Mr Smith and Mr Fremley, who looked and smelled like two ancient rags of cured tobacco, stayed late on the long veranda. In their creaking glockenspiel rockers, they gasped back and forth in the dark, trying to rock up a wind.
‘Mr Terle. . . ? Wouldn’t it be really nice. . . some day. . . if you could buy. . . air conditioning. . . ?’
Mr Terle coasted a while, eyes shut.
‘Got no money for such things, Mr Smith.’
The two old boarders flushed; they hadn’t paid a bill now in twenty-one years.
Much later, Mr Fremley sighed a grievous sigh. ‘Why, why don’t we all just quit, pack up, get outa here, move to a decent city? Stop this swelterin’ and fryin’ and sweatin’.’
‘Who’d buy a dead hotel in
a ghost town?’ said Mr Terle, quietly. ‘No. No, we’ll just set here and wait, wait for that great day, January 29th.’
Slowly, all three men stopped rocking.
The one day in all the year when it really let go and rained.
‘Won’t wait long.’ Mr Smith tilted his gold railroad watch like the warm summer moon in his palm. ‘Two hours and nine minutes from now it’ll be January 29th. But I don’t see nary a cloud in ten thousand miles.’
‘It’s rained every January 29th since I was born!’ Mr Terle stopped, surprised at his own loud voice. ‘If it’s a day late this year, I won’t pull God’s shirt-tail.’
Mr Fremley swallowed hard and looked from east to west across the desert towards the hills. ‘I wonder. . . will there ever be a gold rush hereabouts again?’
‘No gold,’ said Mr Smith. ‘And what’s more, I’ll make you a bet – no rain. No rain tomorrow or the day after the day after tomorrow. No rain all the rest of this year.’
The three old men sat staring at the big sun-yellowed moon that burned a hole in the high stillness.
After a long while, painfully, they began to rock again.
The first hot morning breezes curled the calendar pages like a dried snakeskin against the flaking hotel front.
The three men, thumbing their braces up over their hat-rack shoulders, came barefoot downstairs to blink out at that idiot sky.
‘January 29th. . . ‘
‘Not a drop of mercy there.’
‘I’m not.’ Mr Fremley turned and went away.
It took him five minutes to find his way up through the delirious hallways to his hot, freshly baked bed.
At noon, Mr Terle peered in.
‘Mr Fremley. . . ?’
‘Damn desert cactus, that’s us!