caught in the rain

Isn’t this a lovely day
To be caught in the rain?
You were going on your way
Now you’ve got to remain

—Billie Holiday

 

Quinn and I had one of those caught in the rain love affairs.

If I tell our story it’ll be full of tropes from popular culture and Harlequin romances—she the student, I the professor—May and December—every romantic cliché… and yet, it was real.

Let me amend that—she was real, and I was the caricature. Anyway, enough of that—it’s over now, and we’ve both moved on.

Twenty years is a long time in a marriage—a life sentence—and yet the small cube van in the drive is all I’m taking away.

She wanted the house in the country—well, she got it. I hate small towns. It was a comic opera from the get-go, a contemporary remake of Green Acres, but it fast became a problem play that ended in tragedy—our divorce.

 

“You could at least try, Gray.”

“I tried, Quinn—but they’re bloody Morlocks.”

“Jim Kerr is not a Morlock—he’s a cool guy—you said so yourself, when he towed you out of the field last week.”

The memory was all too vivid—my SUV mired up to the hubcaps in thick, oozing mud.

“What were you thinking of Gray?”

Jim took off his Stetson and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. He jerked a thumb in the direction of the monster F150 pickup rumbling ominously in the road. “Hell, my beast would have a hard time navigating that field.”

I was defensive. “I bought an SUV for this purpose, so I could get to lectures through any type of weather. I thought it could manage a bit of mud.”

He just smiled wryly. “Your SUV is a rich boy’s toy—it isn’t even 4-wheel drive—just a sporty box on a car chassis. Driving over that field you would have ruptured the oil pan.”

“Great!” I groaned. Fifty thousand dollars wasted.

He slapped me on the back and chuckled good-naturedly. “Don’t worry, pal—that’s what neighbors are for.”

See what I mean? Standing next to my muddy ‘toy’ on that country lane was a kind of turning point for me.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not a snob—and Quinn had her problems too.

 

“So, how was the women’s group?”

“Don’t ask!” Her eyes were flashing a semaphore even I could read.

“That bad, huh? Why not sit down and tell me all about it—I made coffee.”

She wavers, caught between sulking in a warm bath, or doing what she really wants to do—unburdening her heart.

I hand her a mug of steaming coffee and she succumbs. Sometimes the men get one back from the Garden.

“I just don’t know why I bother going,” she wails. “ It’s supposed to be a discussion group, but all the women do is sit around knitting.”

“Knitting, huh? You might like that.”

She gives me a look meant to kill. Um, maybe not.

“Do I look the type to knit?”

Looking at her in her jeans and soft leather cowboy boots I’d have to say no. Maybe line dancing at some campy upscale Toronto bar, but knitting? Definitely, no.

“I hate to say it, but they’re Morlocks, Quinn.”

“Like I’m from Venus, and you’re from Mars.” The flash is back in her eyes.

“Maybe I better finish working on my lecture notes for tomorrow.”

“Oh sure,” she pouts, “run off like you always do. Arghh! I don’t know why I thought moving to the country would work.”

I continue up the stairs to the study. I could go back and do damage control, but she’s right—I hate it here, and I’m hoping she gets frustrated enough to see it too.

 

That’s how it went, day in, day out for two years, until finally Quinn did see it—but not the way I hoped.

We didn’t move back—she moved out. Then came the lawyers’ papers. Finally, I caved.

She could have it—the house in the country and all the Morlocks that went with it. I’d take the contents of my study and go back to civilization—where people didn’t look at you funny if you ask for a latte, and where they don’t roll up the sidewalks every Sunday, or close shop at five p.m.

So, here I am, truck backed up to the house, trying to load my stuff before it rains.

Did I tell you about the storms in Big Sky Country? Don’t ask—so many wasted nights with no power and no internet—the house lit by candles as if we were back in the 19th century—which we were.

Well, that’s all over now.

There’s a loud thunderclap and the first few raindrops splatter the walk like black cherries. I groan and sit back on the stairs, staring through the open door as the rain gleefully pelts down—exacting its last ounce of revenge.

They were forecasting a big storm—I warned Quinn—but she was adamant. We agreed on Friday as my moving day, and that was that.

I get up to close the door when I see Quinn’s Jeep bouncing down the dirt lane. That’ll be a mess, I muse bitterly—that lane will be impassable in a matter of minutes. Hell, forget about getting my stuff out—I may be stuck here all night.

I’m contemplating my options, while cursing the weather gods who preside over the County, and the Morlocks duly submitted to their whims.

Quinn jumps out of the jeep with an armful of packages and tries to make a mad dash for the door. Unfortunately, her lovely cowboy boots slip on the ooze and she ends up flat on her rear.

I want to laugh, but it would be fatal. Instead, I rush out into the downpour and skid on the mud, ending up on my rear beside her.

“Nice move,” she laughs.

I had two options—I could have laughed with her, or I could have laughed at her—but I didn’t. No, stupid me, I ran out to rescue her and ended up bogged down in her mess. As usual, I might add.

“C’mon,” I say, helping her up. “You’re soaked to the skin. I hope your nice leather boots aren’t ruined.”

She takes my hand and comes up beside me, leaning into me, the way she always does.

I feel a momentary pang as she nestles close to me. She fits right beneath my shoulder like my old guitar.

I know her huge brown eyes are staring up at me, so I look away and grumpily pick up her packages. I don’t want her to see the mixed feelings stirring inside me.

We get inside and shut the door just as a loud boom sounds and the power goes out. Welcome back.

We’re both shivering and covered with mud. She looks up at me, a crooked grin on her face, “Well, Einstein—what do you suggest?”

I sigh. “I suggest we get out of these wet clothes—we can’t track mud all through the house.”

“Oh no,” she says, “don’t think I’m that dumb. No way I’m doing that.”

“Fine, suit yourself—but I’m not shivering here in the hallway.”

“What do you mean—what are you going to do?”

“I’m going to have a warm bath and change.”

“Are you now?” she laughs. “And what are you going to change into—one of my dresses?”

Damn! All my clothes are in the rental apartment in the city. I’m stuck.

She looks at me bemused. “Didn’t figure that one out, did you?”

Her hair’s disheveled—down in her eyes. She looks like the 18yr old I fell in love with.

“Admit it,” she crows, “you’re stuck—you don’t have a plan, do you?”

She’s right. I don’t.

This is the girl who takes me on drives and deliberately gets lost so she can laugh like hell when I panic. I don’t have plan—and I’m beginning to doubt all the previous plans that I’ve ever made.

More like bad moves, if you ask me.

“What do you suggest?” I sigh.

“You could wear my robe.”

She looks at the horror on my face. “—It’ll just be until we can dry your clothes.”

“And how are we going to that, with the power off?”

She goes very quiet, no doubt remembering the last storm—the old country power lines down for three days, and the food in the fridge and freezer ruined.

“It’ll be an adventure,” she says in her excited, little girl voice, that always melts me and lets her get her own way—except tonight.

No way I’m wearing a woman’s clothes.

“How about I wrap myself in a blanket?”

“Oh, great—we can have a toga party and toast marshmallows by the fire.”

I have to go by the tone of her voice to see if she’s being sarcastic—with Quinn, you can never tell—and it’s now quite dark in the hall.

“Go—go get your bath and grab a blanket from the linen closet in the hall.”

“Wait a minute—what about you—you’re shivering.”

“I’ll be all right,” she says bravely.

“No damn way,” I say, and stoop down and grab her and throw her over my shoulder.

She’s kicking and spitting like a cat. “Let me go right now, Gray—put me down!”

But by then, it’s too late—we’re upstairs, outside the bathroom and I set her down in the hallway. She’s furious and runs into the bathroom and slams the door, I hear water running in the bath.

“Quinn—I’m sorry,” I call through the door, “it’s just that I knew you wouldn’t let me help—I made an executive decision.”

She mutters something, drowned out by the sound of the running water. My back’s to the door.

I go limp like a ragdoll and slide down till I’m sitting on the floor, legs splayed out in front of me.

I’m exhausted and within minutes, fast asleep. Some time later, Quinn jerks open the door and I fall backwards onto the tiled floor, hitting my head. I start to bleed.

“Oh my God, Gray—I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you were leaning on the door.”

She’s panicking, running warm water over a washcloth and looking around furtively for the first aid kit.

“Just give me the cloth, Quinn—then, you can look for bandages.”

She finally finds the kit in the linen closet, of all places, and kneels down and begins dressing my wound.

“It’s pretty deep—you probably need stitches,” she wails.

“I’ll be fine—just bandage it up.”

“I ran you a warm bath,” she says, softly caressing my wound with the antiseptic swab. “Go soak for a while and I’ll make us something warm to eat—at least, the gas stove will work.”

 

I come back down some time later, wearing the white bathrobe she left on the floor—I know, I caved—but it was warmer than the blanket, and didn’t have to be constantly held up.

Quinn’s lit some candles and set out trays by the fire. It looks like a picnic in our own front room—make that, Quinn’s front room.

We sit and eat and talk. I forgot how easily we could both talk. And as we’re eating, she laughs and for a moment, just a fraction of a second, the firelight gilds her face and hair and she’s eighteen again, and I feel the same way now as I did then.

I’m still in love with this girl.

She stops eating and looks at me, and knows. She feels it too.

There’s a knock on the door that startles us both.

“Go answer it, Gray—send whoever it is away.”

I get up, stumble through the dark to the foyer and open the front door.

Jim Kerr flashes this huge search beam on me—and my cute white robe.

“Hey, sorry to disturb you, Gray—just checking up on you folks.”

His eyes are huge and I can only imagine what he’s thinking.

“We’re fine, Jim—thanks for asking.” He’s staring at the robe.

“We got caught in the rain and got soaked. I just got out of the bath and grabbed whatever I could find.”

I knew it sounded lame, but Jim—well, he kind of played along. “Good. Then, I won’t keep you from your evening—just wanted to make sure you all were safe.”

I wondered what the Morlocks would think about that tomorrow. Still, it was pretty neighborly of Jim to come out in the rain just to be sure we were okay.

I went back and told Quinn—we laughed so hard, we felt sick. Then we talked about all the crazy things we’d come through—our joys and pain, and something broke.

We fell in love again.

 

It’s funny—just as I was going, leaving Quinn and feeling all at sea—the clouds broke, and something in me broke—what a break for me.

I told Quinn how I felt and she agreed—she couldn’t envision a parting from me.

As far as I’m concerned, the rain can pitter-patter, and it doesn’t really matter if the skies are gray.

As long as we’re together, who cares about the weather? —It’s a lovely day.

 

© 2015, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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superman in disguise

“I’m a Dad. I’m not a god, although some days I wish I were—I’m just a man. I have three grown children—all of whom are gifted—all of whom cause me enormous grief and make me want to run away. I don’t. I get up each day and do my best. Sometimes, it works and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, I drink. My name is Dan and I’m an alcoholic.”

I look around the room. Faces smile at me. An older woman sitting near the door weeps quietly. I feel nothing.

Bert gets up and wraps up the session. I watch as people slowly file out.

Bert’s a good guy—that’s what his wife told him when she ran off with a co-worker. I’m sure on lonely nights her words give him some consolation. As for me, I’ve come to a firm conclusion—it’s wrapped up in the phrase, no help for pain. I read that somewhere in a poem and figure that just about sums up my situation—but Bert thinks I’ve got something to offer, and… well, Bert’s a good man.

“You wanna go for a drink?”

I look at him dazed. He punches me—hard, in my shoulder. “Just kidding cowboy.”

The cowboy nickname came from a conversation we had when I first got to know him—in a bar, of course—not that Bert was drinking—he was doing his usual thing—listening .

Bert should be on that TV show, The Listener—you know the one, where the guy reads everyone’s thoughts.

“As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?” he asked.

I butted out my cigarette; knocked back three inches of neat scotch and said without hesitation, “The Lone Ranger.”

Why I said that, I don’t know. It was a boozy thing to say—sort of like Paul Butterfield singing, Drunk Again—it’s funny and you laugh, especially the part when he says, my wife left me and my girlfriend too. Well, maybe Bert wouldn’t think that part was too great.

So, after that night we became friends. Bert would call me up every day and ask if I had a drink. I got to hate that phone ringing. He’d end every conversation the same way—“Hang in there, cowboy.”

Well, here I am—hanging in…maybe, just barely. Some days are good and some days—face it, some days you just don’t want to get out of bed. I’m still trying to figure out if life makes sense or is just dumb—let’s put it this way, so far Homer Simpson and Charlie Sheen are winning.

“Dan, can I talk to you for a moment?”

It’s the lady from the back. Her face is still tear-stained, even though she’s been dabbing at it with a balled-up Kleenex.

I look at Bert and he gives me an, I’m out of here look.

“Catch up with you tomorrow, cowboy.” And with that, he’s gone.

“Do you have a moment to talk?” she asks. Her eyes are pleading—I’m always a sucker for that.

“Sure. There’s a coffee shop across the street. Why don’t you let me buy you a coffee?”

The relief in her eyes says yes.

We got coffees and take them to a window booth looking out onto the street. It’s a chic part of town—large, older homes interspersed with Reno’s. The local merchants have invested tons of money into the streetscape—it’s like an upscale Greenwich Village.

She looks like she comes from one of those houses—nicely-dressed, hair cut and styled—a classy, older lady. I’m surprised by her opening words.

“I wanted to talk to you, Dan, because of all the people at the meeting, you seemed to be the one who had it all together—including the way you relate to your adult children.”

I almost choke on my coffee. As far as I know, I only said a few words about my two sons and daughter, and that in response to another woman in the group. I probably only said about a dozen words—twenty, tops!

“Did you miss the part where I said I still drink?”

She waves her hand as if shooing away a mosquito. “That’s to be expected—you’re in a horrid situation and as you said tonight, you’re only human. Besides, we’ve all got something.”

“Why do you drink?” As soon as I say it, I want to take the words back. Story of my life.

The woman doesn’t flinch—I have to give her that. “I drink because I can’t live with the guilt.”

There’s a pained look in her eyes. I want to ignore it, but can’t. Sometimes life demands something of you, whether you can give it or not.

“What do you feel guilty about?”

“I killed my baby, “ she replies—matter of fact, just like that.

“When was that?” I ask, taking into account she’s somewhere in her mid-fifties.

“Thirty years, two months and ten days ago.” She’s about to cry again.

I figure there are two ways this conversation can go—I can tell her the situation is over and done with and to get on with her life, or I can sit here and listen to a privileged disclosure I don’t want to hear. Being me, I opt for the latter.

You had an abortion?”

She nods and looks away. All the world’s pain seems concentrated in her face.

What do you say to someone wracked up with guilt? —God loves you and forgives you—now, go away and be blessed? Christ! She’s lying awake nights pining for tiny fingernails.

I have to say something—but what?

It’ll be okay. I understand. I feel your pain. Trite and dumb. It isn’t okay. I don’t understand her pain—or mine, for that matter, and have no idea what’s  happening inside her. When we feel stuff were nobody but ourselves—this empathy idea is lame. No one can feel what we feel—they only think they can.

So, I tell her. It’s short. It’s blunt. When I finish, she wipes her eyes, gets up and thanks me. A different woman walks out the door.

She leaves me with my burdens and walks out the door free.

I chuckle to myself cynically. “That’s about right.”

I should be feeling pretty down, but I’m not. I should be looking for a bar, but I don’t—I stay where I am.

This lady, whose name I don’t even know, has confided to me the secret of her life. I gave her the little I had to give. It wasn’t much, but it helped. Strangely enough, I feel consoled.

I stand up, drop a ten-dollar bill for the waitress and start toward the door.

I’m a dad. I’m not a god, although some days I wish I were.

I smile as I catch my reflection in the mirror. Peeking out from the top of my shirt is a superman logo—my favorite t-shirt the kids gave me. On the outside, I look like Clark Kent, but I’m really Superman in disguise. All I need is a phone booth, a booth in a coffee shop, or someplace private to change into my secret identity.

The waitress who’s clearing our table smiles back at me for my tip. I wave her over and whisper slyly, “Can you tell me where I can find a phone booth?”

© 2015, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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