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A Fistful of Rain Excerpt

A Fistful of Rain Cover

A Fistful of Rain Cover

This is the song I can never write.

There has been rain, and clouds purple like blood blisters have parted to a startling blue sky. The water, now in puddles in the street and clinging in drops to blades of recently cut grass, shines with the sudden sunlight, creating a glare too sharp for the unshielded eye. Late afternoon, and there is a chill, but it’s not enough to drive the girl and her mother inside, because they are working together in the driveway. There is newspaper spread out over age-old oil-stained concrete, two paring knives, and a black felt-tip marker, used to make the design. The pumpkin has already been lobotomized with a jagged zig-zag cut, imperfectly executed by eleven-year old hands. Seeds and guts are piled in a heap.

The girl, with pumpkin innards sticky on her hands and deep beneath her fingernails, works ferociously, trying to make the perfect face. She imagines the work completed, with a candle burning inside, knows how it should look when everything is done. But her hands frustrate her, refusing to execute the design in her mind, and in her impatience, she makes mistakes.

The mother encourages and cautions, urging the girl to watch what she is doing, to not lose the knife, to not press too hard, to get it right because there’s no second chance. She separates the pumpkin seeds into a shallow stainless steel bowl as she speaks, saying that they will toast them later, then sprinkle them with salt. They will make a good snack.

The front door opens, and the brother steps out, pulling on his jacket. He ignores his sister and his parent as he passes them, a teenager too old for Halloween now that he is too old to wear a costume. He carries the tension of the home in his shoulders and back, and grunts the barest acknowledgement to his mother when she demands he be home for dinner. The girl doesn’t look up from her work, fighting with a knife, trying to cut the perfect toothy grin. She hears her mother complain softly about that boy and the trouble he gets into, but the refrain, like so many others in the young girl’s life, has become background noise, and doesn’t penetrate.

And so they work, daughter and mother, crafting a face that once was used to ward off spirits, but instead will beckon strangers to their door.

Then there is a new sound, the motor in the garage as the opener comes to life, and the girl looks from her work over her shoulder, to see her father behind the wheel of the truck. He is waving his hand with a cigarette between his fingers, saying something lost behind the engine, and there is anger on his face. In the cab, beside him, as far as he can be without leaving the confines of Detroit Steel, is the brother, everything about him wishing he was somewhere else. When the girl looks at him, her brother looks away, but not soon enough to hide the shine in his eyes.

The mother rises, wiping her fingers on her jeans, telling her daughter to gather her things and to get out of the driveway. Her father has come home, he has had a hard day, she tells her daughter. He is tired.

The girl thinks that every day is a hard day for her father, that every day he is tired when he comes home. But she doesn’t speak, because she is feeling something familiar, and when she feels it, she knows it’s best to stay quiet. It’s an ephemeral sensation, less distinct than fear, and she has come to recognize the feeling as her friend, because it speaks of danger. She gathers her pumpkin in both hands, begins to carry it from the driveway to the porch.

She hears her father’s voice above the truck’s, louder now, and she almost relaxes. His shouting is another part of the background noise, and the girl who smells autumn and rain and pumpkin, knows that were he closer, were she in the cab with him, she would smell beer behind his cigarette. Her mother responds using words that regularly earn her brother detention at school. There is the creak of a door opening and the slam of it shutting again, and her brother’s voice joins, but not for very long at all.

The girl is setting the pumpkin on the porch when she hears the pickup truck’s engine rise to a roar, as if shouting to drown her mother’s curses. She hears the sound of tires spinning freely on wet asphalt, but only for an instant. She hears the stainless steel bowl of pumpkin seeds clatter over concrete as a tire brushes it, and she hears her mother’s voice stop, as if pulled from her body and thrown aside.

The engine falls silent.

The girl feels weightless and dizzy, and doesn’t remember turning to look at what has happened. She doesn’t know if she is running or walking or floating to the edge of garage. She cannot hear the sound of her father emerging from the cab of his pickup truck, and she cannot hear the words her brother is shouting at her as he takes her shoulders and tries to turn her away.

Most of all, she cannot hear the sound that her mother is making, caught between Firestone and the ground.

When she looks down the length of the driveway, she sees a spread of blood merging with the rainwater in the gutter.

The sunlight vanishes behind a freshly loaded cloud.

It starts to rain again.