The Storyteller: The Time It Never Rained

A Texas summer under the sun.
Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

Rain might have been a promise, but as the summer wore on, it seemed more like an empty promise.

The sky grew dark.

It had been so long.

William stood on the edge of porch and looked for the rain.

It was slow coming.

It hardly ever came at all.

Summer settled in early.

Summer stayed late.

It brought heat and little else.

The ground was baked.

The corn in the field had turned brittle.

The grasses died.

Cattle bawled at night.

He had spent that morning with Fred downtown at the corner café.

Hot eggs.

Hot coffee.

Hot day.

Laughter rolled out of town when the drought rolled in.

Fred was a farmer.

He owned two sections of land.

Cotton was stunted, he said.

Even the weeds had died, he said, and nothing could kill Johnson Grass but God, and God had smote it down before the end of July.

Fred said he was planting dirt and growing dust.

He was dead solid serious.

William emptied his third cup of coffee, stared out the window, and watched the heat rise off the street.

It rose in waves.

“If it don’t rain pretty soon,” he said, “I’m gonna have to rob the bank.”

Fred sat back and closed his eyes.

He thought about his loan.

He got one every year.

It paid for his seeds.

It paid for the harvest.

It paid for the tractor.

It even paid for his pickup truck.

The seeds lay burnt in the field.

To survive, he would have to plant again and hope for a better fall.

The tractor sat in the barn.

The pickup was low on gas.

Fred shrugged and ordered another cup of coffee.

Might as well.

Re-fills were free.

“If it don’t rain pretty soon,” he finally said, “I’ve already robbed the bank.”

The men watched the sky as the afternoon blue turned to gray.

They watched it a lot these days.

William stood on his porch.

Fred walked a dry creek bank.

The day was growing dark.

It was not yet night.

The wind ruffled the leaves in the trees.

Clouds were black.

The sky was grumbling.

William smiled.

Fred said a silent prayer.

He might even go to church next Sunday.

He wasn’t for sure.

He might be wrong.

But, for a moment, he thought he smelled rain in the wind.

Lightning had written a promise in the sky.

Stories from my life can be found in my memoir of sorts: The Man Who Talks to Strangers. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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