Sunday, September 27, 2009

Digressions on a late summer's cloudburst

'Ain't rained like this in years,' the man said as he looked out across the dug-up frontyard, through a fall of rainwater from the roof so steady it held the man and his son's reflection, distorted and quaking. The boy said nothing, just nodded.

'Doubt we'll be able to do any more work this day. Hell, I'll be happy if our efforts so far aren't completely undone by this rather unexpected downpour. God must got a broken heart to be lettin' 'er loose like this, huh? Yep. Looks like it.' Again, the boy nodded, thought of the time he saw a flash flood hit somewhere down south; remembered his mother saying to his father: 'The caskets are floatin' up outta the ground! It's Revelations: the dead are roaming the Earth!'

'Hell, I remember when I was about your age,' the man began as he lighted a cigarette and leaned back in the green metal chair, just out of reach from the jumping splash, 'We got a rain like this, didn't quit for five days.' The boy looked over, incredulously, at his father, seeing only his stolid profile framed by blue smoke hanging heavy in the cool, damp air, the roaring rain came down loudly, pounding, on the white aluminum awning. 'I ain't shittin' ya, bud, it rained cats and dogs and pigs and horses and lizards and sharks for five days, non-stop. Your uncle Ben tried to hold an emergency town council meeting on the fourth night to suggest building an ark, but only Bup showed up. Probably because it was at Ben's house and Bup was over there watchin' the game and drinkin' beers anyway.'

'Whole basement was flooded out; this entire backyard was a pond, complete with swimmin' fish and leapin' frogs - figure they fell with the rain, or maybe they swam over from the river. Now this was back before the Susquehanna was a shitstream; back when you could actually catch some trout in it, and not just old tires and drunk Ledbetters,' - winking at his son - 'So if you figure the river's flooded up over the bridge with several days' hard rain, and 219 is a veritable tribituary that's spilling into each and every estate that lined its . . . banks, then you'll just have to believe me when I tell you that the whole damn town was under water; that Gram damn nearly got bit by a water moccasin when she was swimmin' around in the basement to get some canned tomatoes for supper. She screamed bloody murder, but no one heard her. Bup was sittin' right here, fishin' 219 North, and probably yodelin' (as was his merry wont). God only knows where any of my sisters might've been. Me: I think I was probably swimmin'. Matter of fact, I know what I was doin' now: jumpin' off the roof of the Corny twins' house. When Paul Senior - the grandpa, not the dad; the Corny twins had an older brother, Paul, and he was the third Corny to be given the Pharisee's name. By the way, did I ever tell you how many people in this town are named after me? Dave Gregg's dad - for that matter Dave Gregg, too; Dave Morley (who also named his son David John, but you wouldn't know that, I guess, he died before you were born - cat sat on his face, suffocated 'im; which they say happens pretty often). Anyway, when Paul Corny Sr. - that's the grandpa, now - when he dug the foundation for that house, he measured wrong and dug way too big o'hole. The Corny's are like that: hardworkers, golden-hearted, but - like Bup always said - a little dim. Hell, the Corny twins barely shared a full brain between 'em. They could play ball, though. Jesus could Paul crack a ball outta the field! I remember pitchin' against him when the little league played the pony league - most of us were used to playin' our older brothers, but they were out for blood that day. I'd imagine it was because they all had their babes sittin' on blankets and cheerin' for homeruns,' the man butted his cigarette and reached out his hands into the falling rain. The boy did the same, and splashed the cold water onto his face, rubbing his neck with his icy fingers, too young to actually feel the tension his father felt, but eager to help him carry it. Wiping off his face with a red handkerchief he kept in his back pocket, the man said: 'Or strikeouts, I suppose, respectively.'

'What happened when you pitched against him?'

'What's that, bud?'

'What happened when you pitched against Paul Corny?'

'He cracked it outta the field; damn near went across the railroad tracks and into the Sportsmen Club's property that's back there behind the old park. Jesus those Cornys were athletes! They had a cousin, Christine Corny, lived over in Barnesboro, went to Northern Cambria - real good lookin' broad, fiery redhead with legs that went on for days. I took her to prom my senior year. I remember the twins - boy, they gave me a rash o'shit. Gram came home from work just as I was leavin', covered me with kisses, and gave me a dozen pink roses she probably bought at the last minute from the hospital gift shop to give to Christine; said she didn't want me showin' up lookin' like some heathen tryin' to kidnap Gert and Bill's little girl. (Think Gert might've been a nurse, too). Bup ran out of the garage and fixed my tie and told me he didn't wanna have to kick Paul Jr.'s ass to defend his son's honor; which was his way of telling me to have a good time, but be conscientious, I suppose. Then again, maybe he meant that I should take any and all available liberties. Ol' Bup was full of wisdom, but never cared too much for coming out and givin' it to ya straight. He was a very cryptic man. Which, I suppose, is where I get it from, and I'm sure people will say the same thing about you, too, some day.'

The sun peeked its head over the clouds, and the golden down that scarcely covered the boy's legs fell back against his skin. His father stood up, and with a hand at his brow, regarded the horizon with tentative concern. Into the dissipating fall he said: 'I miss 'em so much sometimes, bud.' The boy looked at his feet, ashamed he might have to witness his father crying again. But the man cleared his throat and broke the silence. 'Looks like we can get back to work after all. Go get me another wheelbarrow full o'shale, would ya, bud?'

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