Another Rainy Night

by William Schroeder

The rain is falling upon the black, empty streets of my neighborhood, and I am sitting cross-legged beside an open window.

This night is not unlike so many others. I hurt, inside and out,and I think that it may be the residue of grief. It seems as though another parade of troubled everythings are marching through the long corridors of my mind.

I hear the raindrops fall on rooftops and car hoods. It is rhythmic and purposeful, like morse code sent down from the clouds. I wish that I could decipher it. I wish that it was a message meant just for me, a plan or some gentle permission that might inspire me to be someone other than who I have been.

The wet sounds, the cold smell, and the goose bumps rising from the skin on my arms, reminds me of the many times my father and I went fishing in stormy weather. He was always a little surprised when it began to rain, as if Mother Nature had not followed the forecast he had decreed in his mind. Often, he would assure me that the clouds would go away once we got to the lake, and I believed him, no matter how dark the sky looked.

He would tell me that the rain didn't have to stop us, and that the fish always bite a little better if the fishermen were soaked and miserable.

Sometimes, while he was trying to thread fish hooks, the rain would spatter against his yellow raincoat, sending tiny droplets of water into his eyes.But no matter how hard it poured, no matter how cold and numb the tips of his fingers were, he never failed to thread a hook for me. And the sandwiches mother fixed and sent with us never failed to hit the spot, even though they had gotten a little damp.

I hear thunder outside my window and it doesn't frighten me as much as it once did. No, not since the day my father and I were out in a small canoe in the middle of our favorite lake, and a mighty thunderstorm blew in and caught us off guard. The lightening danced across the water like yellow cobwebs and the thunder echoed off the metal sides of the canoe, but my father was unafraid. He handed me a pole with a wriggly worm attached to the end, presenting it to me as a knight might bestow a sword upon his squire, and we fished on. He really, really liked to fish, after all.

I thought that his cool demeanor and steady hand was more than a match for any bit of thunder, and no lightning bolt could flicker brighter than the spark in his eye.

I got up from my sitting position and went outside and I walked down the wet streets. I stood under a security light at the end of the block and I imagined that it was my father shining down on me.As I stared into the light, my tears began to mix with the raindrops sliding down my face, and I whispered, "I don't know if I can sit in my little canoe and thread fish hooks and be happy to be here without you, Dad."

I imagined what he might say to me and it comforted me, and I decided to stay outside and walk the streets a while longer.

I saw a stray cat sitting at the crossroads. It was unimpressed with the weather and sat there like a sleepless sentry of the night. I regarded it and it regarded me, and somewhere in our eyes there was acceptance.

I saw robins come down from their nests to catch the earthworms crawling out of the moist dirt. I envied them. Their devotion to life was distinct and limitless. My father lived his life with a similar purpose and I admired him for it. I thought those types of traits would be handed down to me as easily as I had been handed a fishing pole. I often wondered what had went wrong during the passing of that particular baton. Was I running too fast or too slow? Was there a fumble of some kind during the exchange? Recently, I have felt like I might stumble out of the canoe and sink to the muddy bottom, and anchor there forever by the heavy weight of fear and doubt.

When I return home and walk back upstairs to reclaim my perch beside the windowsill, the rain begins to slow until there is several seconds in between raindrops. I listen intently, as if I might hear the last one fall.

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