Send Down the Rain

Send Down the Rain

Charles Martin


Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

— PSALM 84:5


The breeze tugged at my hair and cooled my skin. The waves rolled up and rinsed my heels and calves. Seashells crunched beneath my bathing suit. The air tasted salty. Shirtless and tanned, I lay on my back, propped on my elbows, a pencil in one hand, a small piece of paper in the other. The paper was thick. Almost card stock. I’d torn it out of the back of a book. An amber sun was setting between my big toe and my second toe, turning from flame orange to blood red and slowly sliding down behind the ball of my foot and the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. I busied the pencil to capture the image, my hands giving my mind the space it needed.

I heard someone coming, and then Bobby sat down beside me. Cross-legged. He wiped his forearm across his nose, smearing snot across a tearstained face. In his arms he cradled a jug of milk and a package of Oreos. Our favorite comfort food. He set them gingerly between us.

I was nine. Bobby was two years older.

We could hear Momma crying in the house behind us. The sun disappeared, and the breeze turned cooler.

Bobby’s lip was trembling. “Daddy . . . He . . . he left.”

“Where’d he go?”

Bobby dug his hand into the package, shoved a cookie into his mouth, and shook his head.

The sound of a plate shattering echoed out of the kitchen.

“When’s he coming back?”

Another cookie. Another crash from the kitchen. Another shake of the head.

“What’s Momma doing?”

He squinted one eye and stared over his shoulder. “Sounds like the dishes.”

When they got married, Daddy gave Momma a set of china. MADE IN BAVARIA was stamped on the back of each piece. She displayed them in the cabinet. Locked behind the glass. We weren’t allowed to touch them. Ever. Evidently she was smashing them piece by piece against the kitchen sink.

“Did Daddy say anything?”

Bobby dug his hand back into the package and began skimming Oreos out across the waves. They flew through the air like tiny Frisbees. A final shake of the head. He unscrewed the milk jug top and held it to his mouth. Two more plates hit the sink.

Bobby was trembling. His voice cracked. “He packed a bunch of stuff. Most everything.”

Waves rolled up and over our feet. “What about that . . . other woman?”

He passed me the carton. His words were hard in coming and separated by pain. “Brother, I don’t . . .”

I took a drink, and the milk dripped off my chin. He flicked another Frisbee. I sank my hand in the package, stuck a cookie in my mouth, and then threw several like Bobby. The little chocolate discs intersected each other like hummingbirds.

Behind us Momma wailed. Another plate hit the kitchen sink. Followed by another. Then another. The change in sound suggested she’d made her way through all the plates and moved on to the cups and saucers. The cacophony echoing from the kitchen kept rhythm with the irregular drumbeat of our own shattering fragility. I glanced over my shoulder but could find no safe purchase.

Tears puddled in the corners of Bobby’s eyes. His lip was quivering. When Momma screamed and had a tough time catching her breath, the tears broke loose.

I tucked the pencil behind my ear and held my sunset sketch at eye level, where the wind caught it like a kite. Imprisoned between my fingers, the paper flapped. When I unlocked the prison door, the crude drawing butterfly-danced down the beach and landed in the waves. I glanced behind me. “We better go check on her.”

Bobby pushed his forearm across his lips and nose, smearing his face and arm. His hair had fallen down over his eyes. Like mine, it was bleached blond from saltwater and sunlight. I stood and offered him my hand. He accepted it and I pulled him up. The sun had nearly disappeared now, and cast long shadows on the house. Where our world lay in pieces around us like the ten billion shells at our feet.

Bobby stared at the road down which Dad had disappeared. A thin trail of whitish-blue exhaust was all that remained of his wake. “He said some . . .” He sucked in, shuddered, and tried to shake off the sob he’d been holding back. “Real hard things.”

I put my arm around his shoulder, and his sob broke loose. We stood on the beach, alone. Fatherless. Empty and angry.

I made a fist, crushing a cookie. Grinding it to powder. When the pieces spilled out between my fingers onto the beach, a physical and very real pain pierced my chest.

Fifty-three years later, it would stop.



Witnesses say the phone call occurred around seven p.m. and the exchange was heated. While the man seated at the truck stop diner was calm and his voice low, the woman’s voice on the other end was not. Though unseen, she was screaming loudly, and stuff could be heard breaking in the background. Seven of the nine people in the diner, including the waitress, say Jake Gibson made several attempts to reason with her, but she cut him off at every turn. He would listen, nod, adjust his oiled ball cap, and try to get a word in edgewise.

“Allie . . . Baby, I know, but . . . If you’ll just let me . . . I’m sorry, but . . . I’ve been driving for forty-two hours . . . I’m . . .” He rubbed his face and eyes. “Dead on my feet.” A minute or two passed while he hunkered over the phone, trying to muffle the sound of her incoherent babbling. “I know it’s a big deal and you’ve put a lot of work into . . .” Another pause. More nodding. Another rub of his eyes. “Invitations . . . decorations . . . lights. Yes, I remember how much you paid for the band. But . . .” At this point, he took off his hat and rubbed his bald head. “I got rerouted at Flagstaff and it just plain took the starch out of me.” He closed his eyes. “Baby, I just can’t get there. Not tonight. I’ll cook you some eggs in the morn—”

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