Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Hard Rain

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The clouds rolled in fast, heavy and dark, and caught them in the country far from any shelter they knew. Jake found an abandoned barn and he and David pulled open the enormous door just as the first drops were starting to fall. By the time they got back in the car, the rain was already stinging. Inside the barn, they stayed in the car, Jake covered with sweat with the air conditioner on.

"You're getting old, Dad," David said. "The door wasn't that heavy."

"It's not the door. This is serious stuff here, kid. I don't want to scare you, but I don't want to bullshit you either. We may not make it."

"You serious?"

"You saw that sky. This could be a long, hard rain. We've got the barn and the car, but it's been getting worse." The news was filled with stories, each day, more horrific than the last. No one could explain why the New Rains began. Why should they be able to explain why they got worse?

They heard something small crack against the roof of the car. David jumped.

"You saw the door," Jake said. "The thing was covered with pin holes. This old barn has seen a few storms."

"Is there metal in it? The New Rain? It sounded like metal."

"No. Just water, but it's falling a lot harder than it should. Gravity doesn't pull down rain like this. Listen, I'm sorry I haven't been a great dad."

"You've been great." More raindrops hit the car now, too many holes in the barn's roof.

"No. I haven't spent the time with you that I should have."

"You're busy."

"I'm not really busy. I just can't bring myself to get into the stuff you like. I'm too selfish, son. I'm too concerned with trying to get my life together when I should - Don't look up! Cover your head with your jacket." There were strange lines on the wet windshield. It took Jake a minute to realize they were tiny spiderweb cracks.

"I'm sorry for all the times I was bad, Dad." David's voice was quivering.

"You were fine, don't worry about it! You were just being a kid. I couldn't be more proud of you."

Outside sounded like gunfire. There was a massive groan of tired wood followed by a crash that made them both jump. A few yards away, a chunk of the barn's roof had fallen in, about four feet by six feet of rain riddled planks. Jake dove out of the car.

"What are you doing!" David yelled, muffled when the car door slammed shut. "Dad! Dad!"

Jake's head was covered but his hands were bare. He grabbed the piece of roof a dragged it to the car. His hands were on fire. He hauled the wood onto the car without looking up and dove back into the vehicle. David's face was wet, but he wasn't hurt.

"You all right? You're bleeding!"

Jake looked at his hands, covered in blood, wiggled his fingers. Everything was still working.

"I'm fine. Just broke the skin. A little bleeding's good for my high blood pressure anyway. I feel better already." They both laughed and Jake wrapped him arms around his son.

"Don't do that again," David said.

"I bought us a few more minutes."

The gunfire eased up and dim light came in through the barn's roof. In a few minutes, the rain passed. They stared out the windows until the it was bright again.

"We made it," David said. Jake fell back into his seat with folded arms, tucking his hands beneath his armpits. David bent forward, burying his face in his hands. For a few minutes, they couldn't move.

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