Waiting for Rain
I call it my office under the stairs, in an effort to make my situation more like that of Harry Potter. And it is cute, this space. There’s a desk, a big round ball to serve as chair, my computers. A futon for the dogs to lounge on.
Right now, though, I can smell a stench blowing in from the front porch, which is a mere six steps away. There’s a dead chicken carcass on the porch, leftover from the other night when I roasted a chicken. If you leave the carcass in the trash, the dogs will find it and swipe it and then you will spend all night with your hand resting on their bellies, willing those damn bones to travel through without snagging on any important organs. So I put the carcass on the front porch to save the dogs’ lives and forgot about it, and now I am paying for my good deed of saving the dogs’ lives with a stench in my office under the stairs.
These are the only stairs in the house. Every half hour or so, the people who spend their time upstairs come downstairs for a snack, and then they go back upstairs. And then they come downstairs again to say hello to the dogs that are snoozing on the futon. There are three people who spend their time upstairs. That is a lot of pounding on the stairs above my head.
There. I just took care of the chicken carcass. I couldn’t stand the smell anymore. It was too stinky for even the outside trash, so I buried it in the duck yard. I felt guilty at first, like the ducks might be offended, but I went ahead and buried it there anyway, because, after all, they’re ducks. It’s not like they’re chickens. And besides, when I was done, I let the ducks into the human yard and they enjoy that. They like drinking from the dark blue bucket of the human yard instead of the light blue bucket of the duck yard—they pretend it’s a lake. And they like to chase the black cat, who is never impressed but who is also a good sport.
Back in my office under the stairs, it’s not long before a set of man feet comes rocketing down over my head. My oldest boy. He pauses by my desk and discusses kneecaps and stuttering for a moment before continuing to the kitchen for a snack. On Saturday, we’ll bring him to college and leave him there. There’s a pandemic on—you’ve probably heard. Despite the pandemic, we’ll drive him two hours north and drop him and a few bags of belongings at the front of a building I’m not entirely sure we’re allowed to enter and then we’ll drive away, waving goodbye. In two and a half months, we’ll do the reverse, we’ll pick him up and bring him home.
Well. Two and a half months if we’re lucky.
I keep checking the weather app. For both rain and the end of the pandemic, though neither of those things are to be found on my phone. We have officially slipped into a drought, and for us that means trips to the laundromat in the next town over, showers that last less than 90 seconds, paper plates and the subsequent guilt, and refilling the duck’s wading pool only every third day. It doesn’t matter. The ducks prefer the dark blue bucket as their lake anyhow.
The weather app shows occasional thunderstorms to the west of us, and of course Louisiana is flooding, but here? Not even a hint of damp. And the end of the pandemic is even more indecipherable. It’s not on the weather app, it’s not on the calendar, it hasn’t appeared in the magic eight ball I keep balanced on a stack of books in my office under the stairs. The future is murky.
“Your future is bright!” crowed the graduation card my son got in the mail a month ago when he was finally able to graduate in a socially distanced way. Someone could have made a killing on a new line of graduation cards specific to spring 2020. “Congratulations and wear a mask!” “We are so proud of you for enduring remote learning!” “You’re going to be so prepared when the next big tragedy hits the human race!”
The wind just picked up outside and I’m proud of myself for taking care of the stench. It would have filled the whole house if I’d let it fester any longer. But now I’m worried about the ducks wandering loose in the yard. Can a wind be strong enough to blow away a duck? Maybe this wind is a precursor to rain. We really need the rain. All my flowers have been allowed to die and I’m considering sacrificing the tomatoes. We are not farmers in the Dust Bowl. We can buy tomatoes from the farm stand three miles down the road. But I’d be sad to lose my own tomatoes. Especially the one my youngest boy named Carl.
I can see him, my youngest boy, through the four inches of window in my view from my office under the stairs. He’s standing in the back of his dad’s pickup truck, holding out his arms and twirling in the wind. He looks joyful and I’m tempted to join him, but I’m also tempted to take advantage of these five minutes when no one is having a conversation with me. But look—he leaped from the back of the truck to the ground and he’s pretending to be driven by the wind, whipped by the wind, steered by the breeze. He is at the mercy of the storm.
We are all at the mercy of the storm.
My oldest boy—if he were here, he’d probably join my youngest, if only to admonish him for jumping so high off the truck, for not helping to close all the windows. My oldest is a planner. A doer. A list maker. Literally, an Eagle Scout. But he’s not here. He’s gone shopping for a shower caddy. I asked him the other day, “Won’t it be amazing to take showers that are as long as you want? With no parents banging on the door and yelling about wasting water?”
The shower caddy will be one of the things we leave with him when we drop him off two hours north of here for two and a half months.
Thunder has started up—no rain yet—and the large dog, our greyhound, has come to cower on the futon in my office under the stairs. He hates thunder. And fireworks, and yelling, and large trucks rumbling by. He’s lucky we live on a quiet street.
People pounding down the stairs don’t seem to bother him, though. Maybe he knows they belong in his pack. Maybe he takes comfort in the sounds of family, of the snack process, of the house’s occupants all home together. Which we’ve been for months now.
Saturday is moving day and there will be one less set of feet on the stairs over my head.
The rain—it’s started.
Dear b, your word for next time is bible.