Thursday, April 4, 2013

Of Rain Falling (Short Story)

(Note: This story won me my first ever literary prize at a writing contest back at the Mayaguez campus of the University of Puerto Rico. The opening line is still one of my favorite lines I've written.)

Of Rain Falling

      Rain poured out of the dark sky as if  angels were crying for the loss of a god.  Phillip O’Brien walked fast.  His hands were trembling and his lips were blue because of the cold.  His thin coat was no match for the cruel winter.  The raindrops felt like ice.  His  head grew colder.  His hat was soaked.  The street was slippery and his worn Armani shoes didn’t help at all  He almost slipped but he managed to grab  a lamppost before hitting the frozen ground.
Phil swore.  He had to get home.  He had to get home fast.  It was already night and Jan had to be already anxious.  She was always anxious.  Anxious about the kids, about the mortgage, about the bills, about the dogs... Even in their wedding day she was horribly anxious.  Was the cake all right, will the best man show, will the photos turn up right?  Maybe that was why she smoked so much, Phil figured.
     He looked up at the ominous black clouds that covered the night sky.  He could see only one twinkling star showing in one tiny spot the clouds didn’t cover.  He could identify with the tiny star.  It was hard to keep on shining with all that power against you.  Though the star kept on, he did not.  And the star was just another star in a darkened sky.  Just one more.
He started walking again.  He took his steps slower to avoid another close call.  As he crossed his arms for warmth he damned his boss.  He damned him for making him work late without pay, he damned him for stealing his ideas and using them as his own, he damned himself for not speaking, for not saying anything.  Damn.

     He thought about Jean and the kids.  That’s why he didn’t confront his boss.  He needed to work to bring home food for his family.  He thought about Jenny, the little one.  He thought about how she had run away when he came home a couple of days ago.  She had screamed that she didn’t know who that man was, that she needed her mommy.  She didn’t know her own father.  She was only three.  His heart broke and Jean only gave him a cold glance as she took Jenny into her nurturing arms.  He damned his boss again.  Maybe he had to speak.  Maybe he had to demand more time for himself, for his family.
He walked by a bum that was sleeping on the sidewalk.  He didn’t even look at him really, he felt disgusted by the sight.  He just passed his eyes in his general direction.  Poor guy, he thought, so many people homeless these days, but what can I do?  A car raced past Phil and its headlights blinded him for an instant.  He stopped for a second to recover his eyesight but then hurried along.  It wasn’t a good idea to spend much time in this part of town at this time of the night.  Too many criminals, too many addicts.  People who were shadows.  People who didn’t exist, that didn’t matter much to him. People that could hurt.
     The rain kept on coming harder than before and it was beginning to sting when it fell.  He looked straight forward and was suddenly dazed by the curious effect the street lights had on the falling wetness.  He drew the scene in his mind.  Phil had been an artist when in high school.  A painter.  He had painted a beautiful scene for his parents in honor of their wedding anniversary.  It was a green forest with a blue creek and yellow flowers.  The image faded to the dark grey city that unfolded before him.  It was still a powerful image.  He mixed colors in his mind to match those that his eyes were capturing at that precise moment.  He had been a painter once.  Not anymore.
He stopped.  He had to cross the street now.  He darted towards the other side without looking.  He never saw the car.  The front bumper smashed his rib cage and made him fly upward.  His back broke the glass in the driver’s side and then he rolled over to the wet pavement.  His lifeless body fell to the wet street with a loud thump.  The car never stopped.

     As the police were removing the body of John Doe, officer Smith sat on the sidewalk eating a sandwich.  The rain had stopped and the night sky was beginning to clear up.  He wiped the stains of watered blood off his ebony boots and took another bite of his peanut butter and jelly.  When he swallowed he began whistling an old song.  One of the other officers walked next to him, dried a small patch of the sidewalk with his plain white handkerchief and sat next to him.
“Slow night huh?” Asked the officer while combing his hair.
“Yep.” answered Smith. “really quiet night.”
“What do you make of that?” he said pointing at the dead man sprawled on the floor.
“Either a drunk or a retard.”
“I think so too.  I mean, you have to be blind to miss the lights of a car in the darkness of the night.”
“Or be really stupid.”
     Jones took another bite of his sandwich, swallowed, and sighed. After a few minutes of silence he said:
“Have you heard the one about the frog and the drunken man...?”

     As the officers’ voices disappeared into the night, a car splashed by.  Another car, another person saying: Honey, look, a corpse!  The night went by slowly.  The blood of a man zig-zagged into a drainage ditch. Water began falling from the sky once again.      

     Rain poured out of the dark sky as if angels were crying for the loss of a god.  Samuel Rodriguez walked fast.  His hands were trembling and his lips were blue because of the cold.  His thin coat was no match for the cruel winter . . . .

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