by Mark Tulin
Artist: Denis Tangney
The rain was always in the back of my mind. When will a storm come? A beautiful downpour? Hell, I’d take a drizzle, a couple of spits from heaven. I kept looking up where God was supposed to be. Why are you holding back? Why are you torturing me? There were no clouds. No threat of rain in the distant future. Not even a white streak across the sky that gave me hope. Everything above was a light shade of blue, like a picture that didn’t move.
The ground was parched. Someone said it had reached 125 degrees today. That was five degrees cooler than yesterday. And so I sat on some sand. The desert dust floated in the air, landing on my tongue, breathed into my lungs, and drying my insides. The rivers and reservoirs were bone dry, farmers abandoned crops, and the few fallen palm fronds lit up like perfect kindling while the cacti and the other succulents wilted and turned black from the sun’s harsh light.
Many people panicked, packed up their belongings, and left. They didn’t want to die in the desert. They didn’t want to end up eaten by the coyotes, vultures, and snakes, so they left despite not having any money or a place to go. They believed that any place was better than the desert during drought season.
But I stayed, foolish as I was. The fact is, I didn’t have anywhere to go, and I didn’t care what happened to me. I had lost everything after my wife died, and her medical expenses left me without a home. I lived under a bridge with a few other emaciated souls who seldom spoke and appeared to be dying. I imagined they were doing the same as me, praying for rain, hoping to see a gray cloud that would miraculously burst into a shower that would rejuvenate us all.
So I waited for the rain that never came, growing weaker and more despondent each day. I imagined lying in a pool of water, bathing naked, feeling its coolness against my flesh, finally finding comfort, and quenching my desperation.
My imagination helped me to survive. Each day, I had a different hallucination. Some days, I imagined water gushing from a drain pipe, wind blowing rain onto my parched body, feeling its delicious waterfall, soothing my overheated flesh. I marveled at the raindrops dancing like tiny, transparent ballerinas on the street. It would be a ballet for the ages. I don’t know how many lives it would save. But who cares about others when you are the one who is dying?
Instead of rain, a savior appeared in the form of a white van. A stranger exited the van, helped a few of us into the back seats, gave us a bottle of water, and drove to a shelter. We stayed in the shelter for the remainder of the drought. We shared a shower and ate canned food, white bread, and beans. We slept on cots and heard cries in the night of those who weren’t so lucky.
Mark Tulin is a retired therapist from California. Mark’s books include Magical Yogis, Awkward Grace, The Asthmatic Kid and Other Stories, Junkyard Souls, Rain on Cabrillo, and Uncommon Love Poems. He’s featured in Cafe Lit Magazine, Still Point Journal, The Opiate, The Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Amethyst Review, Vita Brevis Press, White Enso, WryTimes, and Red Wolf Edition. He is a Pushcart nominee and a Best of Drabble. Visit Mark at http://www.crowonthewire.com