Tag Archives: rain

Brothers in the Fatherland

copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

copyright Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Brothers in the Fatherland

The guards never check the back, my brother Kurt had said.

I crouched in breathless darkness, rain Niagara Fallsing down the windows. Kurt was talking to the guard, getting me through security.

I gripped my pistol. Kurt was loyal but I knew that only a bullet in the tyrant’s head would set the nation free.

I heard a command and the van moved forward. We were in. Kurt thought this was intelligence bureau training. This would kill him.

I’m sorry, Kurt.

The van doors flew open. Rifles pointed at me. “I’m sorry,” Kurt said. “It kills me to do this.”

 


Apocalypse Climb

This is a true story, as evidenced by the photographs. But you know me: I can’t help dramatizing things a little.

Apocalypse Climb

I saw a preview of the apocalypse this past weekend as masses of humanity pressed together, fighting to ascend (and then descend) a steep, rain-soaked path of tumbled rocks. The horror, the horror…

Apocalypse Climb

Koreans love them some mountain climbing and they love them some autumn colors. And considering that everyone loves them some weekend, going mountain climbing on a Saturday in Korea in the fall is like a perfect storm, especially in the rain.

The sky was overcast when I left the house in the morning. I couldn’t find my umbrella, but I had a magic talisman that prevented rain. At least, it rarely rained when I was carrying it and I believe strongly in the principle that correlation implies causation.

I got to the mountain (which is also a provincial park) and as the bus passed long lines of cars parked along the side of the road, my heart sank like a bowling ball in a banana souffle. It was, as the Chinese say, a mountain of people, a sea of people. If zombie hordes wore expensive hiking gear and preyed on autumn leaves, I would have been in a George Romero film.

The rain started as a fine mist about halfway up the mountain. By the time I got to the park’s famed Cloud Bridge, the path had bottlenecked and so we all stood in the rain, shuffling forward at a snail’s pace until I finally reached the bridge. I looked down at the path 250 feet below me and saw the winding, ant-like column of hikers abandoning the mountain.

I saw a sign saying the maximum number of people on the bridge was 200. Not that anyone was counting.

I saw a sign saying the maximum number of people on the bridge was 200. Not that anyone was counting.

I gave up the idea of going to the peak. A cloud had sat on the mountain as if it were snuggling into an easy chair and after the bridge was a treacherous metal stairway, over 200 feet high and as steep as a ladder. I wasn’t the only one who decided to cut the trip short and head for the cable car station nearby for a quick trip to the bottom. The trails were choked with sodden hikers, some with expensive cameras, jewelry and nice purses, all picking their way down the slick rocks. I felt like we were refugees from some disaster.

Apocalypse Climb

The group on the left are the ones who climbed under a railing and swarmed down the rocks to cut in line on the main path.

“All it takes is one person to slip…” I kept thinking.

There was a two-hour wait for the cable car, nowhere to sit and nowhere particularly warm. At least the view was pretty.

Apocalypse Climb

I got home four hours later and soon the apocalypse was only a distant memory. It’s amazing what a hot shower can cure.

Apocalypse Climb


The Taxi Driver

Jeff climbed out of the driving rain and into the taxi to find that the driver was a pigeon. A giant pigeon, in fact. He hesitated, debated getting out and then, in a dazed sort of way, gave the address.

“My God, I thought we’d never get a cab,” Jeff’s girlfriend, Katrina said, climbing in after him and shaking the water off her coat like a retriever. She hadn’t even looked up yet. Jeff nudged her and she looked up, gave a kind of strangled scream and then tried to cough to cover it up. It failed absurdly.

“That’s a pigeon,” she whispered through clenched teeth, as if Jeff couldn’t tell.

“What do you want me to do about it? I’m not going to go find you another cab in this weather.”

“What if it’s dirty? They’re called flying rats, you know.”

“Hey, don’t be specist,” Jeff said. The pigeon-driver honked at a jaywalker, pulled around a truck and turned left.

“Does it know where to go?” Katrina asked. Jeff noticed she was clutching his arm, like she was afraid of getting attacked.

“It seems to be going there,” he said. “It probably flies all around the city anyway. Probably it knows the city better than we do.” He hoped it wasn’t rude to say it. He didn’t want to be specist.

“Do you think it understands us?” Katrina whispered. Her voice was even softer.

“I told it where to go and it started going. Either it understands or it’s psychic.”

They stopped at a red light and the pigeon down-shifted. It was having a hard time doing it, having only wings and no hands. It managed, somehow. Jeff could not imagine it was comfortable.

“Why would a pigeon want to be taxi driver?” he wondered, still whispering.

“Who wants to be a taxi driver?” Katrina said. “Everyone’s gotta earn money to live.”

“Yeah, but why doesn’t it do something else?”

“Like what?”

“Like be a flying courier or something.”

She actually smacked him on the arm. “That is so specist of you! Saying that just because it’s a pigeon it has to do something with flying.”

“Well, why not? That’s what it’s good at, right?”

“Well, you’re good at doing dishes. You want to be a housekeeper?”

Jeff looked at the pigeon again. Its left wing was squashed against the door in an uncomfortable way. It could put it out the window, if it wasn’t raining so hard.

“Well, as long as it gets us home, that’s all I care about,” he said finally.

There was a pause. The rain drummed incessantly on the cab roof. The windshield was getting fogged up and the pigeon driver kept reaching up to wipe it off. The windshield was streaked with feather marks.

“You should talk to it,” Katrina said.

“Why? What would I say?”

“I don’t know, but you’re never going to have this chance again. How many pigeon taxi drivers could there be? Come on, ask it something.”

“I am not going to ask it anything. You ask it something, if you’re so interested. Anyway, it might not talk.”

“You said it understands. Why wouldn’t it talk?”

“It’s not the same. Look, I’m not going to talk to it. What would I say?”

“Ask it where it’s from. It’s not from here, I’m sure. Maybe it’s got a family back home, like a clutch of eggs and a wife pigeon or something.” Katrina sniffed. “I’m getting stuffed up. I think I’m allergic to it.”

“We’re almost home.”

She sniffed again. “Just ask it a question. You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

“No. If you’ve been secretly studying Pigeon and want to give it a crack, be my guest. Otherwise, let it go.”

Katrina gave a small noise of exasperation but was silent until they got home. As soon as the car stopped in front of the building, she opened the door and bolted towards the front entrance, not even waiting for the umbrella.

Jeff looked at the meter: $8.50. The pigeon driver didn’t say anything, but Jeff could see it looking in the rearview mirror, waiting. He pulled out a ten.

“Thanks for the lift. Keep the change.”

The pigeon gave a deep cooing sound, like he’d heard from birds on the street, but deeper. It was such a common sound and yet so alien in that situation that Jeff lost his nerve. He dropped the bill into the front passenger seat and bolted out of the cab too. The cab drove away, turning the corner at the end of the block and disappearing from sight.

“I feel like we should say something to someone,” Jeff said as he joined Katrina in the front steps.

“Well, I guess being a taxi driver is okay,” she said. “Maybe if they become doctors.”


Inside a Social Raindrop

(This story is dedicated to my wife Leah, whose birthday is today.)

Aqua-biologists have determined that the smallest sentient particle of water is the droplet. Droplets are much smaller than we think and are very resilient through all states of matter. They are also very friendly.

I can just see them up there on a cloudy day, bonding together into bigger and bigger drops.

“Just a bit more,” they yell. “Just a few more for critical mass.”

“Hey, didn’t I see you in the Danube?” one droplet asks another.

“Yeah, back in the day. I’ve been hanging around in the upper atmosphere for a while now though. You?”

“Africa. I spend some time in an elephant.”

“Hey, I was snow,” another says and all the other droplets ooh and aah. Being part of a snowflake is incredibly fun.

“Are you guys going down?” a few droplets cry as they whirl by in an air current. Water droplets have such corny senses of humor.

“We sure are. Grab on,” the others shout, laughing.

More droplets pile on. “Three, two, one, and here we go!” they all shout as they all feel that delicious brink-of-the-rollercoaster sensation just as the raindrop begins to plummet.

“Whee!” they all scream. It’s only natural. The ones at the bottom are flattened out by their speed and the ones on top just barely hang on. They descend through a grey misty world and then suddenly come out of the clouds.

“Almost there!” one of them shouts as the ground rushes up to meet them.

“See you in the Amazon River!”

“See everybody in the Amazon River!” They all laugh, even though it’s the oldest joke in the book for water droplets.

“And here we goooo!” they all yell together.

Splat. The man looks down at his coat sleeve where the raindrop hit and then up at the sky.

Dang. He forgot his umbrella.


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