Rains here every afternoon. Two-thirty. You could set your watch by it. You’ll be looking out the window, admiring the way the sun licks the hydrangeas across the street, and then all of a sudden it’s Noah’s Flood out there. And here’s the thing: the dirt holds the water like a bowl. Doesn’t even soak into the soil. You’re just watching and wondering where the hell all that water goes.
I like to ask Sue what she thinks sometimes. She doesn’t talk much but when she speaks you know she means it. Hon, I say to her, what do you make of this rain situation?
She shrugs most of the time. After awhile you start to realize there are different kinds of shrugs. I don’t know shrugs, for sure, but shrugs that say yeah or nay or how in the hell am I supposed to know?
Sue’s got a shrug that tells me we ought to go out for dinner, if you can believe it.
We moved down to South Carolina as a matter of survival. We were having ourselves a hell of a time up in Ohio before we called it quits. Sue had an ex there who swung by every day while I was at work. I had an ex who swung by whenever Sue was at work. I tell you, we were more or less running a hotel.
I stand at the window in the front room and wait for the deluge. There’s a fella walking his big yellow dog out there. He’s wearing white shorts, white shoes, white shirt. I think he plays tennis sometimes at the high school. He moved down here the week before last and if I heard him right he’s from Pennsylvania.
My memory’s not what it used to be because of the booze.
Anyway, he hasn’t learned the schedule. He’s out there with that big yellow dog, the one that gets loose sometimes and tears up the hydrangeas and every other matter of planted flower or bush in the neighborhood, and he’s sunning himself in the afternoon glow. Then it just pours. Like the hammer of god.
Those white shorts?
His white shoes?
That white shirt?
They’re practically nothing after a half second in the storm.
Sue, I say. You wouldn’t believe this shit.
She shrugs a shrug that means she probably wouldn’t believe this shit.
The new neighbor, Mr. Wimbledon? Just got caught in it.
Sue, I say.
She shrugs again.
Sue, I wish you wouldn’t be like that about our neighbor.
Sue, I’m only a man. I’ve still got my pride.
Mr. Wimbledon takes off down the street with the yellow dog in tow. He rounds the bend and heads off in the direction of the courts. Maybe he’s planning on getting a few sets in.
How should I know?
I pace around the house thinking about what it used to be like. How I’d come home for lunch and find Sue and her ex in compromising positions. They liked the couch. Hell, they liked the floor just as much. I’d open the door and yell, I’m home, just to give them a chance to get decent. Not that they took it.
Sue, I say, how could you have done all that? With your ex? The couch? The floor?
She shrugs and it’s as if she’s saying, There are different kinds of love. At least that’s what I think she means. It’s what she always used to say before she told me she wouldn’t say it no more.
There’s no sense in trying to get anything else out of her. She’s made up her mind in these matters. She’s only got so many words and none of them are going to be used digging up the past. She even said that one time.
I didn’t have any choice but to sit there and nod.
In no time the storm dies and the sun takes its rightful place. The water that’d stood on the dirt sucks on down to the core of the Earth or wherever the hell it goes. Looking out there, you could almost forget it ever rained at all.
About the Author: Jared Yates Sexton is a born-and-bred Hoosier living and working in the South as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University. He is the author of The Hook and The Haymaker from Split Lip Press, along with three other collections and the crime-novel Bring Me The Head of Yorkie Goodman, forthcoming from New Pulp Press. He can be found at jysexton.com and on Twitter at @jysexton.com
Story Song: "Black Rose" by Billy Joe Shaver
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone