Hi everyone, sorry it's been so long. I've been working on another novel that will go up here once it's finished and edited, it's a very strange one and I'm up to a difficult part, so it's taking me a while. But I thought I had better update since I haven't in about two months. Claire still writes good stuff!
Anyway here is a short story that's been sitting on my computer for a while with nowhere to go... It was inspired by that funny old tale about Walter Mitty, an old man with young dreams.
The rain would not abate
The rain would not abate. The corn was soaked through, the wheat beaten to the ground by the repetitive pelting; even Mrs. Walters’ pansies were drowned, their petals floating about as if the insubstantial stems were stripping, piece by piece. Even for the not-very-successful Mr. Walters, this sudden onslaught from above made this the worst season yet. But the rain had always fallen, and it would continue to fall no matter how idealistic Mr. Walters was.
“Harold Walters, do something!” screamed Mrs. Walters. “This is the worst season yet! We’ll be ruined!”
‘Damn it,’ thought Mr. Walters.
“Harold, why didn’t you listen to me? I told you we should go for livestock this year. I told you!”
‘Damn it,’ thought Mr. Walters.
“Harry, I’ve had enough! How are we going to live? We’ll be bankrupt! Get out of that armchair you lazy slob, and do something!”
“Damn you!” exclaimed Mr. Walters. He had shot up out of his armchair, compelled by the impetus of the swearword (for Mrs. Walters, despite popular opinion, still considered ‘damn’ a dirty word, and forbade her husband the use of it). But even so, this sudden gain in height did nothing to intimidate the rotund mass that was Mrs. Walters. Now, as ever, she looked more than capable of squashing her tiny husband.
“Sit down you fool.”
And he did. “I’m sorry dear. Look, everything will be all right, we’ll pull through like we always do.”
“Did you know Mrs. Andrews next door went on a shopping spree last week? When have I ever gone on a shopping spree? When have you ever treated me to anything?”
“But we never have enough money.”
“Exactly. We never have enough money.”
“But dear, money isn’t the most important thing in the world. We live on a farm. We live the pastoral life! Do you know how many people envy us?”
“Harold, read this.” Mrs. Walters passed Mr. Walters a newspaper. Highlighted, run around in circles of ink, was a job advertisement. “The B.I.G. Company is looking for employees. You’ll have a steady income, one that’s not dependant on the whims of the weather,” Mrs. Walters said, in what was her attempt at a persuasive voice.
“I won’t do it,” announced Mr. Walters. “I am not a sell-out to corporations. I am a farmer. I am one with the earth.”
“Why, because you’re so close to it?”
“I’m serious, I will not do it.”
“But darling,” began Mrs. Walters, fluttering her eyelashes and stroking her husband’s arm with her short, chubby fingers, “In the city you can build your way up. Just think, you’ll be a nameless, faceless employee to start with, but then you’ll work your way up – you could be the boss, just like that!” She exclaimed, clicking two fat fingers together.
‘Yes…’ thought Mr. Walters. ‘I could be the boss.’ “All right dear, I’ll do it.”
“Good boy,” crooned Mrs. Walters, and she patted him on the head, stroking back and forth as if her were her cat or her dog.
The rain continues in the city. It runs through gutters like you wouldn’t believe. There have been hailstorms and a lot of the trees have lost their leaves, which were all too young to withstand the forces. Mr. Walters is dressed in his suit and for once in his life looks like maybe he could amount to something. He has been working for the B.I.G. Company for three months now, and the work is dull and time-consuming but at least Mrs. Walters is happy with the money. She is also happy that she gets to see much less of her diminutive husband.
Mr. Walters drives his car into the employee car park, which luckily is under cover so he does not get his new suit wet. He carries his briefcase through the lines of cubicles. He smiles at the unsmiling faces of co-workers. He cannot tell why they are not smiling. But he smiles nonetheless.
It is a smile which is worn down over the course of the day. Hammond keeps coming in. He is younger than Mr. Walters but he is his supervisor because he has been there longer and he has the right credentials. Hammond keeps giving him work, and he keeps checking on Mr. Walters, and he has a very snooty and smarmy way of doing so, as if he thinks Mr. Walters will go off-task the minute he turns his back. Mr. Walters does not particularly like Hammond, but he puts up with the young upstart because he knows that one day he’ll be the boss and then he can be snooty and smarmy and check on Hammond to see if he is snoozing. And the worn-down smile grows back fresh at this thought.
Hammond has just left the room after checking on Mr. Walters and telling him to do some report or other by the end of today. Mr. Walters is smiling at Hammond’s turned back, smiling because one day he’ll be boss, dreaming one day he’ll be boss, falling asleep now because he’ll need to be well rested for when he’s the boss…
Hammond wakes him up with three sharp taps on the shoulder. This is the fifth time I’ve caught you asleep he says. Pack your things he says. You’re fired he says.
Mr. Walters woke as if from a bad dream – but he had been awake the whole time, awake and working like a slave for a company which he hated, faking a smile everyday just in the hope of that promotion. The rain was still falling and Mr. Walters was driving home to the farm. The drive was uneventful, ‘much like my life’, thought Mr. Walters.
He got home. He drove his mini into the car port, slowly cruising in. He stopped the car and sat for a minute, listening in anticipation for the weather report. More rain. Slightly disappointed, he took the keys out of the ignition, got out of the car, and walked into the backyard because he noticed the gate was open. He shook his head and closed the gate. He noticed the back door was open. He went in and closed that too. ‘That’ll attract the thieves,’ he thought. He traipsed weary through the rooms, dropped his briefcase somewhere he couldn’t remember afterwards, and went upstairs to his bedroom.
There was Mrs. Walters heaving and sighing under some man. Mr. Walters never saw his face because his eyes were fixed on his wife, while the man grabbed his clothes and jumped out the window all in one swift movement, reappearing later in the view out the window, a pasty figure receding into the fields, buttocks shivering in the rain.
Mrs. Walters stared back at Mr. Walters, unashamed at her nakedness. ‘You fat old cow,’ thought Mr. Walters. But he did not say a thing. He never did say a thing. He took one look at her, covered with the sweat of another man, and went back out of the house.
I’m going to find me a lover. I’m going to go back to the city and get my job back. Demand a promotion. I’m not listening to my wife anymore. I’ve been shortchanged by life and I’m sick of it.
The rain is still falling! I’m on the motorway and this storm has not stopped. Maybe it will flood the world. I should build a boat and collect a menagerie.
In front of me, behind me, surrounding me are the other insignificant people all alone in their cars, gridlocked on the road by the coast. The sky is grey, the cars, even the coloured ones, all are grey, the sea and the sand is all grey. We’ve all been shortchanged, me, and you, the people in the cars, the sand, and the sea – we’ve all been shortchanged by the sky.
Suddenly the sun tore a small hole in the sky behind Mr. Walters, just peeping, but sending out a ray or two, rays which were visible as beams of light on the backdrop of grey. The light bounced through raindrop to raindrop, and a rainbow arched over the motorway, putting one foot far off on land and the other just next to the motorway, dabbling in the waves.
Mr. Walters could see the end right there before his eyes. ‘The end of the rainbow – the gold is in the water!’ he thought. ‘But everyone will be there before me!’ He looked around. Nobody had even raised their eyes from the dull red glow of brake lights before them. “You fools!” Mr. Walters shouted out loud, maniacally. He got out of his car, not even bothering to stop the engine and take the keys. He began to walk away, ignorant of the beeps of horns protesting, accompanying his brisk steps.
He arrived at the barrier and crossed it, onto the hard, slippery rocks, his shiny black shoes squeaking in fear, then onto the sand which recorded his shoeprint for posterity. He walked into the water, suit still on, and swam towards the end of the rainbow.