The fallen rain gathers itself like large shards of broken mirror on the flat street, reflecting silver-blue rays from the sun that hides behind a thin, high cloud of rising steam as it races down its late afternoon arc. The street is mostly deserted except for a couple of young boys down the block who are standing, mouths open and gaping up, under the electrical lines near a pole’s crossbar, listening to the singing and sizzling of the wet wires, hoping to see a spark. Further away, a tired, old, unseen hound bugles his presence, probably for no more reason than his irritation at the sound of water dripping on dry things that follows the sudden storm’s torrential downpour, a dripping sound that has not been heard in the drought months now ended but which triggers his internal instinct to sound an alarm – even if only a half-hearted one.
Windows in our neighborhood are thrown open with the rain’s end, and from those windows all up and down the block one can hear the comforting sounds of meal preparations being made – metal pots being set on stoves, stirred with hefty spoons whose shallow bowls are emptied with a rapid staccato of taps on the pots’ edges at the end of the stirrings. Corning Ware serving dishes being set out; tables being set with china or ceramic plates, silverware, glasses; chairs being scooted into place; refrigerator doors being opened and closed; and the occasional whistling or humming that signals a happiness with the basics of life. It’s suppertime in my neighborhood, and the buttery smell of baking cornbread wafts from somewhere down the street. Spirits elevated by the coming of the rain, a grinding chokehold on life has been broken. There’s hope. One rain often spawns another, and the promise of renewed life that springs from the thirst just ended does its subconscious work with happy results.
After family meals are over, my neighborhood transforms itself, as if in the most natural progression, back into the softer, gentler, easy-going personality that characterizes its approach to life in all but the hardest of times, times like the long, debilitating drought just ended. The grime and dust have been washed away; the trees and shrubs have already seemed to lift their arms and chins in celebration. While mothers attend to cleaning up the supper dishes, well-fed and exuberant children rush out of doors and down front steps to play in the street. Kick the Can, Blind Man’s Bluff, Hide-and-Seek and other yard games break out spontaneously. Dads mosey out onto their front porches with newspapers in hand, settle onto the porch swings, wave at each other across the way, then set about their relaxed quietness as a few light pipes or cigars for evening pleasure. Wives soon join them and soft family conversations begin as a contrast to the rising din of the playing children. A few lightning bugs begin to flash their evening signals.
One old-timer abandons front-porch solitude and the news — “Nuthin’ new there!” he mumbles to himself — as he drops the newspaper, ambles down the steps, crosses his yard and the street and with a familiar greeting mounts his neighbor’s steps to offer a warm, sturdy, work-hardened hand.
“Mighty good rain we got, huh?” says the old-timer.
“Yep!” says the friend. “I can’t recall for certain when we last had such a drought, but I know I was just a young sprout. Pop was worried sick that we weren’t gonna make any crops that year and he’d have to go back to work in the mines. But just in the nick of time, along came a good soaking rain and we made enough harvest to eke by.”
“Ain’t that just the way of it?” chuckles the oldtimer. “And I hear there’s more comin’.”
Carpe diem. Vita brevis!
© March 2011, Michael Stubblefield. All rights reserved.