And then, the Raindrops Fell
She sat there. Solitary. Waiting. Her cup of tea chilled beside her, forgotten. One car drove past, another, and another. She just sat there, rocking back and forth, her ancient hands knotted in her lap, resting patiently, as they always did at this time of day. The summer sun burst through the sky’s seams and rain began to fall. Tabby got up from her perch beside the old woman, arched her back in a long stretch. The raindrops interested her. She tried to catch some, unsuccessfully as it seemed. Still the woman sat, rocking back and forth, a glimmer in her eye mirroring the glint of the raindrops as they fell beside her. Happiness seemed a long lost commodity.
“Do you remember what day he said he would return, Tabby?” the old woman mused. The cat turned her head at the sound of her name, saw the woman’s eyes gazing out far past the horizon and realized the woman had not been speaking to her. She continued to swat at the falling raindrops.
“Strange how the rain comes even when the sun persists in shinning, don’t you think?”
The two sat on the porch together, each absorbed in their own worlds. The old woman checked her watch. Time ticked by slowly, but even so it wouldn’t be long.
Finally, the 5 o’clock bus chugged its way steadily down the road. The woman’s shoulders shifted, her feet shuffling on the ground as if she intended to rise, but the time for such things had passed. She glanced longingly at the worn wooden cane resting next to the screen door. She used to loath the thing. It reminded her too readily of her precarious age. Now she missed the days when it could hold her weight. Gravity hung heavy on her limbs, as frail as they had become.
Not too far away, the engine exhaled a heavy hiss and the hinges of the bus door creaked and whistled as they slid open. From this distance, the people all looked a blur to the woman’s old eyes. Blue jeans and brightly colored shirts moved here and there, departing from the bus in their various directions. Only three of the figures chose the path that wound past the woman’s home. Maybe this time one of these figures would finally detach itself from the bunch, and leap up her front steps shouting a raucous greeting as her Sam had once, many years ago.
Her fingers trembled in anticipation. Something about this group felt right, familiar. Her Sam was returning home, she thought. Now she could hear their chatter, undistinguished but persistent, a joyful murmuring above the radio static of her hearing aids, the voices of children. Laughter rang, but rain still fell upon them. She began to grow frightened. They would get sick if they stayed out in the rain too long. Hadn’t she always told him that?
“Children? Children! Come out of the rain now,” she begged them. They didn’t seem to hear.
“Come now, Sammy boy. Listen to your mother. Play time is over. I’ve made you your favorite dinner, just come inside now.” The children continued to walk, their chatter growing increasingly loud. They were level with her now, and their laughter rang like shrieks in her ears. She reached up to her hearing aids to turn them off, but her arthritic hands could not find the tiny switch. They kept walking. How could they keep walking? This couldn’t be her son. He would never have ignored his own mother.
“Tabby? Who are these people? Why are you in my yard now, children? Get out! Get out of my yard or I’ll call the goddam cops!” The woman began shaking furiously, her fist grasping at the air. The kids looked up, first curious, then startled.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing here?! I didn’t order any goddam pizza you little fuckers!” she screamed. The kids stared at her, torn between fear and amusement. Finally one of them mustered the courage to speak.
“You sure, misses? I got a hot, fresh pie right here for you. All you gots to do is…”
“Didn’t you hear me?” she screamed. “Scram! Scram, all of you! You’re trespassing! John! Bring the shotgun!”
“Hey lady!” said another of the boys. “I don’t tank John’s coming. He’s dead, see? You’re all alone.” The three boys laughed, leaching courage from each other. The old woman began to screech.
Sam burst through the front door, looking around wildly.
“Beat it you kids!” he yelled. They turned and ran, small blobs of color retreating down the street.
“Mom? Mom! Calm down,” he cooed, grabbing his mothers hands as they rang the air. “It’s ok. They aren’t going to hurt you. I’m here.”
“Who the hell are you and what are you doing in my house?” she yelled at him.
“It’s me mom. Sammy. Your son.”
“Liar! You must be one of those goddam kids! My son died 3 years ago! Who the hell are you?”
“Mom. I’m right here. I didn’t die. I survived the crash, remember? That was 40 years ago. I’m ok. I’m here and I’m not going to leave you.”
The woman’s breath began to slow at this. She let Sam move her arms back into her lap, relaxing all her muscles. For a moment her eyes still flashed to and fro, unfocused, and then they settled on her son’s face, the wildness retreating from them.
“Oh, Sammy boy. There you are. Be a dear and get your old mom a fresh cup of tea, will you? It seems mine has grown cold,” she said, letting the leather wrinkles of her face tighten into a broad smile.
“Yes ma’am,” he said, breathing a sigh of relief to see that she had returned to him.
“That’s my boy. You know I love you, right?”
“Of course momma. And I love you,” he replied. “You about ready to come in, mom?”
“Oh no, not quite yet. You know,” she paused, thinking. Her eyes glazed as she looked out over the street.
“What’s up, ma?” Sam said, pressing her hand.
“My Sam will be here any minute. I want to be here to meet him when he comes home.” She winked as she said this. “Did you know my boy will be the first person in our family to have ever graduated college? I want to be here for him when he comes home, let him know how very proud I am of him!”
Samuel sighed, squeezed his mom’s hand. “Of course. You can stay out here as long as you would like.
“And by the way,” he added, “he already knows.”
“knows what, dear?”
“how proud you are,” he said, his eyes stinging. As he slid back inside, she watched the raindrops fall.