Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Storm

Five hours outside. Over a hundred degrees. By this time he felt as though he was radiating more heat than the sun was beating into him. "It was supposed to rain, damnit!" he cursed under his breath.
At thirty five and after spending more than ten years doing a bit more beer than exercise he was not the same spry young man who had been drafted by the Cubs out of high school and spent five years playing in Des Moines.
He had never made the big league, and a motorcycle accident had wrecked his arm near twelve years back. So he got a tract of land and dug in.
The land was cheap. He grew vegetables. Some he ate and others went to farmer's markets. He had married his high school sweetheart at age 20. Regretted it at age 21. She left him, then came back, then threatened to leave on a regular basis for the next nine years. They had no children. She was gone now.
"Damn bitch never appreciated how hard I work," he muttered and flung a spade full of dirt over his shoulder.
It landed, scattered, in the vicinity of his pile. A few small clumps bounced of a pair of white sneakers.
The man stopped. He set the tip of the spade at the bottom of the hole he had been digging and guessed the depth to be a bit over four and a half feet.
"Good enough for what it's for," he said and climbed out.
Standing up he noticed that the air had changed. There was a bit of a breeze and it smelled damp. He scanned the skies and could see that a line of clouds had taken up residence to the west. A squall line. So it was going to rain after all.
"Hmph," he grunted and scanned his small field and its withering crops, "looks like you're gonna get the drink you need after all."
He smiled, then turned his attention back to the job at hand.
Bending over, he grabbed the sneakers and lifted them up. The feet inside and legs attached rose as well. The ankle length sun dress slipped down to the woman's waist exposing her legs. A pasty white color that nearly matched the cotton of her panties and was in stark contrast to the tan of her face and arms.
He locked his arms around her ankles and walked backwards, dragging her unceremoniously. Her dress worked its way upward, first exposing her white, round belly, then the underside of her bra, where it stopped, her breasts preventing the indignity from becoming any greater.
When the distant couple came astride the hole--her grave--he stopped and released her legs. They fell, her right foot overhanging the maw. He put his hands on his hips and looked down at her.
He tried to remember the good times. They seemed so distant. They had been in love, he supposed. He wanted to believe that it had been more than teenage lust. He didn't know. In the end it had been an accident, but he had caused it. She had been riding him for not getting the well pump running and when he jumped up to yell back he caught his leg on the coffee table and tumbled into her. They both went down but she had been under him and her head struck the wall coming down. Her neck broke. There was no blood.
They would blame him, he decided. So he chose this path. Dig, bury, tell anyone what asks that she finally made good and run off. He placed his boot against her hip and shoved her in.
The first drops of rain struck his cheeks above and hers down below. He hastily started to fill in the hole.
Each raindrop struck heavily, sparse at first but getting more frequent. The sun was gone and the light was fading fast despite it being just three in the afternoon.
He shoveled faster.
Only an elbow, bent upward from the short violent tumble, remained visible. It vanished then reappeared as the rain stepped up its attack.
His pile was turning to mud but he kept at it.
The hole was three quarters full and the rain was comming down in sheets.
He slopped in the last shovels-full. He was drenched. The hole was topped by a pool of mud.
The rain had created mini-rivers between the planted rows. He dropped the shovel, spread his arms and looked up at the cascading watter.
The torrent continued.
He wept. His tears washed away as quickly as they could form in the corners of his eyes.
Then he heard it. A crack. Loud and close. Lightning does not strike in the middle of the rain, only the edges. He knew this. It couldn't be...
A large branch of the sycamore had broken and fell. It was unrelated to the storm. Just a coincidence. It struck him on the head. He fell unconscious, landing face down in one of the mini-streams that were nourishing his crops. His heart pumped. His chest and stomach moved in and out, replacing the air in his lungs with water and mud. His heart pumped faster, trying to get more oxygen. His lungs were inundated. His heart raced, became erratic, then stopped. Signaling in his brain continued for a bit, then slowed, then stopped.

The next day his nearest neighbor came by to check on him. Then came an ambulance, then the police. His wife's body was discovered, and the coroner's report came back: both had drowned.

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