“Although frowned upon by the Reverend Johnstone and his captains, these visits across the dunes served a useful purpose, introducing into their sterile lives, Ransom believed, those random elements, that awareness of chance and time, without which they would soon have lost all sense of identity.”
― J.G. Ballard, The Drought
From my blog (I called it an “Online Journal” then), The Daily Epiphany, Sunday,June 11, 2000
Walking in the rain
North Texas has been in a drought for… actually, about the last three years. It’s been that long since we’ve had enough rain to saturate the ground. I’ve forgotten about what real rain is like and my children haven’t even really seen it. We have had rain almost every day for the last few weeks… that didn’t used to be unusual this time of year, but it’s something we haven’t seen in quite some time. Any rain we’ve had in the last three years has been instantly soaked up by the dry ground, adsorbed, removed, and used to swell shut the cracks that vein across the parched clay every summer.
Today, it was raining particularly hard. Not a thunderstorm, no deadly lightning, but the long, heavy soaking rain – the life-giving rain. We had plans to go to a friend’s for the afternoon and they don’t have children so Nick and Lee were collecting boxes of toys to take with them. That way they would have something to do other than careen around and tear our friend’s beautiful house and possessions to shreds. Lee was collecting games for the Nintendo 64 while I hunted down the appropriate adapters so we could hook it up to any sort of electronics our friends have at their place.
Lee couldn’t find some sort of addition… some add-on pack that is used to attach his Gameboy cartridge so he could use his hand-held collected Pokemon in the N64 Pokemon Stadium game. After looking for it all through the house I had him call his friends and luckily, it didn’t take long until we located the missing pack at another kid’s house down on the end of the block.
So Lee had to go down and get it and he asked if I would walk with him. We grabbed Candy’s new big umbrella and opened the front door. Lee saw the extent of the torrent out there and asked if we could drive. I said, “No Lee, it’s only to the end of the block, we can walk in the rain, we won’t melt.”
He has a fear of storms, not an entirely unhealthy one. Lee is at the age where he is being allowed now to do some of the things that he couldn’t when he was a little younger; such as walk to a friend’s house in the neighborhood by himself. Lee takes everything to heart and still wrestles with these things. He is afraid of a lot of stuff that was forbidden to him as a small child. He can’t understand how something can be so dangerous, so full of terror one day, and no big deal the next.
Part of that is a fear of storms. He has been warned so often to watch out for lightning, stay inside when there is thunder, don’t swim in threatening weather, that he doesn’t like going outside if it’s raining. I assured him that I’d stay with him, it wasn’t a thunderstorm, we would be perfectly safe simply walking down to the end of the block and back.
So we stepped out with the umbrella, Lee standing close to me so we could both take advantage of the portable shelter. The ground was finally saturated so the heavy rain was all running off; the streets, sidewalks, yards, all covered with flowing water. We live on a slight rise so flooding is not a concern. It has been so wet the fire ants are all building desperate chimneys of mud straight up from their mounds in an attempt to escape the deluge. Unfortunately for them, this makes their nests easy to spot and apply a tablespoon of white powder insecticide.
Lee quickly lost his fear of the storm. I caught him grinning as we walked side against side, both barefoot, wearing shorts and T-shirts. The water along the sidewalk was deep everywhere and deeper is some spots and Lee took great little boy joy in padding his feet through the rainwater pools.
And so did I.
Something about fresh rainwater, it feels good. Warm water, soft water, rushing between your toes, splashing. Some of the water on the ground was tinted an ever-so-slight brown, a weak tea steeped from last year’s dead grass clippings still concealed in the lawn. There was no wind at all and the drops came straight down, big and thick and warm. The rain made a constant pinging on the taught fabric of the umbrella and a faint rustle as it tumbled through the leaves of the trees… the only sounds. For once, the constant background rumble of eighteen wheelers on the nearby Interstates and cloverleaves was muffled by the sheets of falling water.
The neighborhood smelled clean, washed, fresh. Lee was really enjoying the walk. There is nothing like the thrill of a fear overcome. The surprise discovery that something dreaded turns out to be enjoyable. We reached the end of the block and knocked on the door; his friend produced the adapter and I shoved it down a deep pocket and rolled my shirt over it to protect the electronics from the damp.
Lee was impressed by the amount of water running down the street. I wanted to drive the kids to the spillway of the White Rock Lake dam. It becomes an incredible raging torrent – a big change from the usual laconic curtain of water flowing down the concrete – but we didn’t have time.
Lee and I had to satisfy ourselves with our one-block walk in the rain, hopping in puddles, ducking the umbrella below tree branches.
In many ways it was the highlight of the weekend.
And a piece of flash fiction for today: