Monday, September 8, 2008

Gimme Shelter

It was rare enough that John ever left his small, private ranch. It was rarer still that he would interact with anyone at all when he did. But after three days of seeing the same Woman stand in front of his house with Her umbrella opened, motionless, he was more than willing to break his unspoken vow of social celibacy.
In a previous life, John would have been considered charming. Charismatic. Witty. He probably would have been able to think of a more tactful way to approach the solemn Woman he’d been watching. Still, “What the hell are you doin’ on my property? It ain’t even rainin’,” seemed most appropriate to him at the time.
Understandably, She didn’t respond.
“Excuse me, ma’am. Bein’ that it hasn’t rained in…I don’t know, a long time, I’d like to know what you’re doin’ with that umbrella out here. This is private property.”
“Waiting for the rain,” she said, without turning around. “Sometimes, you just want the rain to come. Sometimes you want Heaven to explode and pour down all around you.”
“Well…do you mind waitin’ somewhere else? You’re on my land,” he answered dryly.
The Woman began to sing softly to Herself as She twirled Her umbrella, spraying water in every direction and showering John. He stood there for a moment, silent and dripping, as he thought of new ways to approach the situation until he was able to make out what She was whisper-singing: “This land is your land. This land is my land…”
This pulled John from his drip-induced daze. Betty used to love Guthrie, he thought. “Ma’am? Can you hear me? Hello?” he tried again.
“Yes, and I responded to your question,” She said emphatically.
“But you’re still on my property.”
“What I’m standing on is a sad, sad strip of parched earth that happens to stretch in front of a place that I assume is your home—unless you would be a liar—and all I happen to be doing is patiently waiting for the rain to come,” She asserted.
John rolled his eyes and walked towards the Woman. “Alright, Lady. You been here three whole days and there ain’t been a sign of rain. There ain’t been a rain cloud for weeks. Have you ever been to Arizona before?”
“Lived My whole life here. And then some,” She responded—then She started to turn around, slowly and carefully so as not to reveal Her face. She lifted her arm and pointed next to the house. “I planted a tree right over there on our wedding day.”
“Well, musta been somewheres else, ‘cause there ain’t no tree there, Lady.” He reached his hand out to her shoulder. “Now come on, get goin’. There’s no trees, and no rain, and—Jeezus!
Just as he was about to touch her shoulder, the sky—which, moments earlier, had been perfectly clear—suddenly burst into a tremendous downpour, as if all the rain that had hid for the summer decided to come down all at once. He looked up at the Woman, who remained standing in the same position. Much like the ground below Her feet, She was completely protected by the umbrella, staying just as deathly dry as the cracking earth.
“If you don’t get off the property, I’m’a have to call the cops,” John shouted as he ran for the porch.
“You don’t have a telephone,” the Woman responded calmly.
“How do you know what I do or don’t got?”
“I don't see any telephone poles. Not for miles.”
Standing on his front steps, John hesitated as he tried to out-rationalize Her or think of an appropriate response, but the only one he had was to slam the door and leave Her out in the rain.
For the rest of the evening, John watched Her from his window. At first, he was fidgety and anxious, but as the night waned on, John found himself entranced by Her statue-like state, and soon, he, too, was confined still and silent to his seat by the window. He stayed that way for hours until finally, he fell asleep. But the Woman had not moved.
The next morning, he awoke in his chair with a cramp in his neck. His first response was to stretch and massage it, tasks which kept him distracted from the sight outside his window. After a few minutes, John finally took notice—of nothing. The Woman, it seemed, had left after the rain. There were no footsteps but his in the dirt, and the ground was just as dry and cracked as it had ever been. He went outside, curious and incredulous and blinded by the sun, but he could not find a trace of the Woman or the rain. He played the scene back through his head, fast-forwarding and rewinding through his memories of the evening, to no avail. As he turned to head back inside, he noticed something out of the corner of his eye—a small sapling, forcing its way out of the hard earth. It was the same spot where he had buried his wife all those years ago.

No comments: