That night I woke to rain, the kind I hadn't heard in damn near three decades, not since me and Henry were boys and the rains were regular and trustworthy. First thing, I ran to the well and watched the water inch up the stones till it spilled over onto my boots. It was magical water I guess, because my boots lifted off the ground. And then I was flying — over the abandoned farms, some with tractors left in mid-field, past the ghost forest, and over the banks of Putah creek, dead no more. Lila was in it, water up to her waist. I sloshed out, spun her around. The hollows in her collarbones were so lovely with rain I dipped my lips to them and drank. "Didn't I tell you faith would be rewarded?" She said something, but her words became sparrows and flew away.
A crack of thunder split my hazy thoughts. I blinked, back in bed, alone as always. "Homer, you are dreaming again," I said. Then the sky split open. I sprang up and ran, barefooted, outside. Rosie, ignorant of rain, let out a hoarse howl. Laughing, I howled too. Lila's fig tree shuddered with delight. Quick, fool, it said, ain't no time to waste! Already the storm was weakening. I ran back inside and got every bowl, every cup and glass I could carry and set them in the yard. Then I went back for Lila's mason jars, her vases and coffee mugs, all the time whispering, hurry, hurry, you old coot, before it passes. After I'd emptied the cupboards, I looked up just as the last drop hit me square on the nose. Last drop in all the world, last drop until God knows when.
"No, please." I lifted Lila's mug to the heavens. "One more cup!" I spun around, whooped, hollered, flapped my arms, flung myself at the clouds until they gave way to the stars, the only witnesses, 'sides Rosie, to my despair.
Finally, there wasn't nothing left to do but take everything back inside.
Then Henry appeared, dripping, in the doorway. "Brother, wasn't it beautiful?"
I did not trust myself to speak, so I handed him his cup and we tipped our heads back. It was sweet that water, not heavy with minerals, nor grimy with sediment, so light and clear it brought two grown men to tears. I remembered something I said to Lila the night before she joined the caravan — all those cowards skulking out of California — "Stop crying, woman. Tears is water." Well now, it was like the water went straight to my eyes and I couldn't help but think of other things I'd said to her and things she said to me. "Stay," I said. "Farmers don't leave the land. Rain'll come." That look on her face, full of pity! "Oh, Homer, the drought is here for good." The way she squeezed my arm, she'd be gone by sunup, I knew it.
Henry put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed.
"Damn. Wish I could hear it again is all."
He grinned, pressed some buttons on his old phone, and then... a serenade of rain right there in Lila's kitchen.
"I could listen for days," I said when it petered out.
"Hold on, I'll loop it." A few more buttons and it was done. So we stood there, Henry and me, listening to the storm pound on, forever and ever, nothing but rain and more rain as in the days of Noah.
Nicole Simonsen's stories and essays have appeared in many publications over the last few years, including: SmokeLong Quarterly, The Jellyfish Review and Tin House Online etc. In 2015, she won the Editor's Prize at Fifth Wednesday Journal. She has an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis and works as an English teacher at a public high school in Sacramento, CA.