A man is lying in bed, trying to fall asleep, when he hears the sound of rain outside, just beginning to fall.
The man lies there listening as the rain falls on the roof. He lies there listening as it falls upon the windows. He lies there listening as it falls on the trees, on the mailbox and the cars parked in the road.
He turns the covers back, puts his feet down on the floor.
The man puts his robe on and goes into the living room. He stands there at the window, looking out. He can see the water coming down; it’s slanting in the streetlights. The bushes in the yard are dancing about.
The man opens the front door and steps onto the porch. It’s cold outside; he wraps his robe closer.
The rain is louder here, and the thunder much closer.
He looks at the porch roof and steps out from under.
The man tilts his head back, lets the rain fall onto his face. He splashes out down the path, toward the gate. His robe falls off as he steps into the street.
He heads for town, water moving past his feet.
By the time the man gets only a few blocks down, the whole street’s become a raging river. It takes all his effort just to stay standing up.
So he lies down, and lets the current take him.
The current takes the man on into town, past the liquor store, the schoolhouse, the police station. It takes him past the office building where he used to work, past the cemetery where his whole family’s buried.
And then the current just keeps taking him on, out past the edge of town, and then down the hill.
The man looks ahead—in the distance is the lake. And the current’s taking him faster and faster still.
Hey, the man says.
He starts to struggle against the water. But the current’s too strong; it carries him on.
Behind him, the lights of the town all fade away.
Well, says the man, I guess it’s gone.
And when the man finally slides into the lake, a voice seems to say, It’s okay. It’s warm and it’s deep, and he sinks right on down into the dark.
And then he dissolves away.
Ben Loory is the author of the collection Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day (Penguin, 2011), and a picture book for children, The Baseball Player and the Walrus (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015). His fables and tales have appeared in The New Yorker, Space and Time, and Weekly Reader’s READ Magazine, among others, and been heard on NPR’s This American Life and Selected Shorts. He lives in Los Angeles, California, where he is an Instructor for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.
What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Rain”?
Well mostly I just sat in my house and typed a lot. The ending was the part that gave me trouble (as usual). I always thought it was going to end with him sort of rising up to the surface and opening his eyes and finding himself back in bed in the morning. But it never worked, always seemed wrong and stupid, no matter how many times and ways I wrote it (which were MANY). I should maybe explain here that I cannot sleep, can never fall asleep, never, never– that last moment of giving in to unconsciousness just scares the shit out of me and I can’t do it without a prolonged war every night. So the moment where I suddenly understood that the story had to end with him dissolving away into the water was great, because I finally had the ending, but also terrifying! It sorta felt like I’d just executed someone. Maybe myself.
But I think he’ll be okay. The man seems pretty resilient.
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