When the Rain Comes
BY JAY REISS
The girl stopped just short of another tap. She swung her head around to face her brother. “They’re just fish, Tur Tur!”
“How would you like it if they annoyed you?”
Nyra looked at the fish tank and frowned, pondering the question. “I’m not annoying them.” She confirmed her own deduction with a nod of the head then scampered away.
“How would you know?” Turyut called after her, but she was already gone. He got closer to the fish tank. “Sorry guys, ignore her. She doesn’t know anything.”
The fish did not respond. They drifted around some more.
“Oh, I almost forgot!” Turyut snatched the bag of fish food from a side table and sprinkled some into the tank. The fish rose to the surface to feast, as they always did. Through the glass he could see the distorted blob of his mother walking into the room.
“Turyut, what did I say? Go play in the yard while you can. Outside is beautiful right now and it’s going to rain soon.”
“Mom, come on! I’m playing with the fish!”
Turyut’s father entered the room. “I’d listen to your mother if you don’t want to be sleeping with them too, eh?” The colloquialism was lost on Turyut, but not his mother.
“Very funny, honey. Turyut, I won’t ask again.”
“I’m okay with that.”
“Fine.” He slumped his shoulders and dragged his feet past his mother to make a statement.
“That boy, I swear,” she said to her husband.
“He’ll grow out of it.” The father scratched his back against the wall.
“I suppose. Should we prepare for the rain?”
“No need. It won’t rain for a few days.” Her husband left the room, leaving her to look out the window and worry about the sky.
Nyra was already in the backyard underneath a tree when Turyut stepped out of the house. Her back was turned, but it was clear that she was fiddling with something. Turyut walked closer to examine. She was drilling a stick into the dirt.
“What are you even doing?” asked Turyut.
“It’s a flag pole!”
“No it’s not,” said Turyut. The comment elicited no response. Nyra kept drilling. “If it were a flag pole, it’d have a flag.”
Nyra, having securely stabbed the ground, picked up a leaf larger than her face and drove it through the top of the stick.
“A flag!” she exclaimed.
“A stupid flag.”
“This land is mine!” she said as she began to jump around.
“No it’s not! It’s my yard too!”
“This is my flag, so this is my land!” Nyra proudly folded her arms.
He ripped the leaf and stick from the ground. She stomped her foot on the grass.
“Put it back!”
“Okay!” Turyut drove the stick back into the dirt. “Now it’s mine,” he declared with a triumphant grin.
“No it’s not. My flag is back!”
“No it’s not. This is my flag now. You saw me plant it in the ground,” he said.
“No it’s not. Just ‘cause you planted it doesn’t mean it isn’t mine.”
“Sure it does,” he said.
“I made it, so it’s mine. My stick. My leaf,” she explained.
Turyut knocked the stick over with his foot. Nyra cried out in anger. She knelt down and tried prying it from under his foot, but it remained firmly planted. Turyut’s attention turned to the tree.
“The tree is my flag! It has leaves and sticks, and it was here before your flag,” he said.
Nyra stood up in protest. “A tree can’t be a flag!” She looked up through the branches, checking just to make sure. The breeze gently bumped the branches against one another. Their sound was dry and hollow as if the tree were completely dead and barren. But leaves clung to stems and wilted under the effort. Nyra watched her mother water the tree everyday, but she could not remember if she had done so that morning.
“It’s no different from your flag, just bigger and better,” Turyut stated.
“But you didn’t make the tree! I made my flag.” Nyra looked at the crushed stick under her brother’s foot.
“I put the tree here with Mom and Dad before you were born!”
She had no way to dispute his claim.
“No,” she said. Turyut did not know how to respond, but felt confident that he had won. Nyra looked down at her arm.
“Ew, you spit on me.”
Turyut leaned in to get a closer look.
“You did it again!” This time Nyra looked to her other arm. “I’ll tell Mom!”
“I didn’t spit on you!” Turyut felt a cold prick on the back of his neck. It felt as if an ice cube had slid down his spine. He clasped his neck in defense and another drop of cold jabbed his hand. His sister was experiencing the same sensation. She jerked left and right into violent contortions.
“It’s raining!” shouted Turyut, and he ran to tell his parents. Nyra realized it was just water, and she ceased her frantic dancing. Her arms spread wide as she began to embrace the strange new sensation.
Turyut ran into the house, desperately yelling the word ‘rain’ as many times as possible.
“No, already?” his mother replied. She looked out the window and saw the thick drops falling from the sky. “The weatherman said it’d be another day or two. Oh, but they’re never right.”
“What’s all the commotion?” asked Turyut’s father.
“The rain started,” his wife cried. “It’s coming fast, too.”
“You don’t say,” he said, looking out the window to confirm. “Well, look at that.”
“Turyut, where’s your sister?” asked the mother, but she had already ran to the door before Turyut could respond. “Nyra come inside this instant!” she yelled across the yard.
The rain was much louder than it had been before, and Nyra either could not hear her mother, or she chose to ignore her, even in the face of unfathomable danger.
“She should really come inside,” her father said, still looking out the kitchen window. Turyut watched as his mother sprinted from the house, but the rain obscured his view. After only a couple of seconds it was impossible for him to make out the shape of his mother. The air was more water than air.
His mother reentered, bursting through the wall of rain just beyond the door. She carried Nyra in her arms. Nyra’s legs were covered in mud, as were her mother’s socks. Turyut’s father closed the door behind his wife and locked it.
“You’re all covered in mud,” Turyut pointed out. “It’s all over the carpet.” Turyut had never seen his mother have such disregard for cleanliness. She put Nyra down on the floor and quickly tore her socks off. Turyut’s father had moved from the door to the window, firmly locking it. He moved to the next window, then the next. Turyut’s mother left to do the same. Before Turyut knew it, every door and window in the house was closed and locked.
“What are you doing?” Turyut asked his father.
“It’s raining, son. This is what you do when it rains.”
Turyut followed his parents throughout the house while Nyra struggled to pry her shoes from her feet. His mother grabbed several spray cans from a closet, and Turyut wondered if his mother was about to graffiti the carpet. Turyut’s father doubled back, stuffing towels and rags along the edges of the doors and windows.
Nyra, having rid herself of most of the mud, walked into the living room and stood by her brother just in time to watch their mother spray the edges of the windows. She moved to the next window, sometimes removing a towel or rag her husband had placed, and spraying over the cracks. A white cream expanded from the cans and solidified along the edge.
“The water is going to get us!” cried Nyra, and she flopped onto the floor. Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Turyut went to the long, bay-style living room window. The rain lashed the glass in a way that Turyut had only experienced in a carwash. The sound crescendoed in waves as each sheet of rain collided with the house. He could not remember a sound in his short life that was more violent, more constant, more consuming. But he was determined not to cry like his baby sister. Turyut looked down, and saw that the water outside was already a foot deep.
“It’s just rain. Don’t you worry,” said the mother.
The father entered the living room. “It’s not the rain you have to worry about!” he joked.
His wife frowned disapprovingly. “Oh, hush you.”
“Do you have any more spray?” he asked his wife. He took the spray can the mother held. “I’m almost done with the chimney,” he stated as he left the room. Nyra continued sobbing.
Turyut turned back to look out the bay window, which was very dark now. It was not until a leaf floated by that he realized the water had risen above the window. He ran to the back door. Through the glass he could see the yard completely submerged. Once solid ground now drifted as mud and grass. Sticks and leaves floated towards the surface—if there was a surface. Turyut certainly could not see it from the door. The tree, which had stood firm and dry just an hour earlier, was now leafless and slowly uprooting. He looked away. Away from the mud, away from the sticks, away from the leaves, and away from the tree that had been there since before he was born.
When he entered the living room he saw his mother holding Nyra in her arms. Nyra had stopped her crying, or at least stopped being so loud about it. His father closed the bay window curtains, took a step back, and admired the job he had done in sealing the windows.
“Dad, why did you close the curtains? I want to see the rain. I won’t cry,” said Turyut. Nyra glared over her mother’s shoulder.
“Better to keep our privacy this way,” his father replied. Turyut did not know what this meant, but it did not take long to figure out.
A shadow, silhouetted on the curtain, descended from the top of the window. Nyra cried out and dug deeper into her mother’s arms. The silhouette distorted with the folds of the curtain, but arms and a head could distinctly be made out. As the shadow turned, Turyut could see the distinct shadow—not of legs—but of a fish tail. Turyut’s legs shook at the sight. His father chose this moment to light a cigarette.
“Don’t be scared now kids, this is just rain.” He took a drag on the cigarette and looked at the floor. “Why, I remember my first rain...”
Turyut did not think he liked the rain very much. Nyra peaked her head up and opened one eye. The shadow began drifting to the side of the window. Turyut noticed a gap in the curtain, but it was too late. Through the window, against the black depth of the water, a pair of green, slit eyes peered in at them.
Turyut and Nyra screamed, both retreating into their mother’s arms. Holding the two shrieking children she had brought into this world and raised, the mother had the faintest and most foreign thought—that maybe this was not as natural as they had been told.
The thought quickly passed, and she comforted her children. They were simply not used to things as natural as rain.