This story is a reprint of something I wrote for creative writing at Cornell. I haven't edited anything, so you can see my writing in all its adolescent glory.
|Darkness fades as the sun crests over the rim of eastern mountains. The valley is harshly cast into sudden light, and clouds spread like milk spilt in water, roiling and fomenting in an almost cuddly, ineffectual anger. They're not nimbi today. With no one to view it, the scene passes like time-lapse photography. Everything races to take its proper place before eyes can behold the welkin in all its glory. Then slowly, one by one, they open, and the world is revealed.|
Saladin MacArthur wakes up later than most. Many of his neighbors don't think he does much. He fits the mold of an odd twenty-something artist type, fresh out of college and unemployed. They call him and his friends slackers. His friends call him the Rain God. They think it's funny that he thinks he can change the shapes of clouds. He views it as an art form. He can sit there for hours, sometimes lay, snatching wisps of smoky ether and bringing several clouds, or sometimes one big cumulus, to mirror the form preconceived in his mind. He wonders today whether or not anyone else can see the image of William Shatner he's crafted, and if they can tell it's Rescue 911 Shatner, not Captain Kirk or T. J. Hooker.
He goes with his friends that evening to Café Gestalt, the wind having wiped away his day's efforts like an etch-a-sketch shaken in slow motion. At the usual table in the back sit his fellow artists Levon Delroy, street performer, and Sarah Beth Sweeten, who works primarily with metal sculptures. He arrives with Derek Rottweiler, watercolorist and comic book inker, as well as his ride. Together with Emmett Scott, amateur photographer, and the curiously late Laurel Bouchard, science fiction author and publisher of an electronic 'zine, they comprise the local young artistic community.
Derek is the first to ask, "Where's Laurel? She's usually the first one here." He turns his head side to side, looking for their friend, glancing towards the bathroom in case she's trapped in there. Sarah Beth Sweeten shrugs briefly, scooting over to make room in the semicircular booth for both newcomers. Derek squeezes his impressive self in first, a personification of large and in charge; he stands over six and a half feet tall. A thick layer of muscle underlies a thin layer of fat. Despite his chubby appearance, he doesn't look like someone with whom to get into a fight. Which is all well and good, since he's got the heart of a pussycat and is only about half as fierce.
Sarah Beth Sweeten, who never goes as Sarah, Beth, or Sarah Beth, looks almost tiny by comparison. She's by no means slight, but rather with a trim and athletic body strapped to a frame of slightly taller than medium height. She looks more reasonable by comparison to Levon, who's only five-six himself. Saladin tousles his thick black hair a bit as Derek seats himself. He then takes his hand from his pocket and places is gently on the table, bending at the knees and waist with such coordination as to allow himself to sit down lightly. Out of courtesy, he has refrained from wiping the cushion his friend so recently vacated with his hand.
Suddenly Laurel is there, bringing Emmett with his head hung low. She removes her backpack and sets herself down somewhat more roughly than she had expected. Emmett seats himself as she says, "Car trouble. I happened on poor Emmett here alongside the road with his hood open all this smoke coming from his car. Was that your Captain Kirk today, Rain God?"
Saladin chokes on a smile. "Yes," he does not correct her.
Sarah Beth Sweeten seethes with mirth, "Christ, was our boy at it again?" She hits Derek lightly on the arm and he chuckles twice lightly. Levon is busy trying to get the waitress's attention. Emmett's cheered up a little, no longer suffering the shock of being rescued on the road by a woman.
Saladin looks at Sarah Beth Sweeten, knowing she doesn't believe him. He's still attracted to her, and he hopes that that won't stand in his way. He was working up the nerve to ask her out again. They've never officially dated, though they'd spent a lot of time with one another when she had done a sculpture of him in scrap metal. She had chosen him, after all.
His reverie is snapped by a question shot from Laurel, "Who's ready to order?" She's the only one who's seen that Levon's efforts have finally met with success, other than Levon himself, who seldom says much. For several hours, they sit and discuss various projects. Everyone applauds Saladin's recent windfall. He sold a script for Dante's Divine Comedy, translated from the Italian into rhyming English. The film will never be made.
The next day passes, as well. Saladin today is just playing with scraps of cloud when a form alights next to him, lying antiparallel. He can tell it's a woman, though he's not sure how.
"How do you do it, Rain God? Is it telekinesis? Why only clouds?"
Laurel. If he didn't recognize her voice, he would have known the sci-fi curiosity anywhere. "No," he says, "it's just clouds. Nimbokinesis, I guess. I don't really know why."
"Hmm..." There is a detached silence, and much time passes. "Do me."
Saladin concentrates fervently, struggling to grab the sparse amount of clouds out today. He forms a head, first, round like the moon and her face. He gives her strands of stratus hair. He does only the frames of her glasses, with the transparency implied. He's about to attach a body when she gasps, "Oh my God." She gets on her hands and knees and turns around so that she's now lying the same way he is. She takes his hand and asks of him, "Can you make it rain?"
He's not sure what to make of it. "Rain? I just move clouds around. I don't do weather."
"No, bear with me. If you compress the clouds enough, they should get heavy enough to drop some rain." Saladin had never thought of that. The body and head collide rather roughly, reaching a critical mass; the tiniest of sunshowers erupts playfully about them. He laughs furiously like a madman who's just learned that he was right all along, and she places a kiss on his cheek. They lie there together for quite some time.
Sometimes you sit there for hours, he thinks, crafting clouds from wisps that almost aren't there. But more often, you can just look up and see a fluffy bunny already made, just waiting for you to look at it the right way.