Happy Inspirational Fiction

“Well, you good to keep going?”

Carlo looked around.

“Fer’ real,” he said, as the rain kept falling.

Soloman shrugged, tipping a divot into the brim of his booney so the water had somewhere to go.

“Okay,” he said. “Let's just do it for now.”

The rain was the type which is heavy but not driven, non directional and semi-warm, the sort of rain which would only be allowed on a Monday… or maybe a bad Tuesday.  

His gloves were dirty and wet, the fingertips worn through. Gloves were free, but getting them was just a thing and so he had not bothered. It had been three weeks, and he had not bothered. Steve was sick and Garrett on mandatory Covid quarantine, so Soloman was the only remaining driver. It had been five thirteen hour days in a row now and he was beginning to feel beaten up, jumpy and emotional. It was the sort of job which didn’t allow recovery from injuries, in the way that a thumb fractured by a hammer blow will never recover if you keep hitting it with the damn hammer.

Carlo had lost his mom two months ago and he still wanted to talk about her. He had asked Soloman if he believed in miracles. Soloman had never met the woman and was feeling savage and ungenerous. His own wife's father had digressed to a day by day struggle for life and that was drawing off all the sympathy he felt he had to give. One couldn’t be mad at a crazy person, he told himself, when her anger came, one couldn’t allow oneself to become mad at a person with a mental illness. His wife had never intended to outlive her father. No plan, just, nothing after that.

‘Like a goddamn Egyptian,’ thought Soloman.  

It did not make him feel any better.  

It was a black day and a black god damn life. Carlo hadn’t smiled in weeks. Did he want to follow after his mum? Or did his whole life just feel like a savage wank?

The booney hat was a blessing. One could put up with a lot if one's face was dry. His wife had bought him that hat. It was tatty and frayed now, having been blistered right off his head by the Florida sun. Soloman had once believed that the piercingly hellish glare was capable of destroying anything, except metal. Then he had taken down a tin shed erected by his father-in-law five years before. Now he knew better. Metal was not exempted. He felt like a stewed tomato. His wife was working. In the worsening weather he had left his headphones in the truck, and with them the digital audiobooks which rendered the job's boredom just bearable. The rain squelched through everywhere.

Soloman thought about asking Carlo if he had ever read Douglas Adams. Not because he was in any doubt as to what the answer would be, that did not even matter, but because it would allow him to segue into what he actually wanted to say, about having a vocabulary for the rain, classifications way beyond heavy or soft, cold and… not cold. But Carlo would have to be dragged uncomprehending through the whole damn thing and it really wasn’t worth it. He was a good enough worker but this was another thing entirely and so Soloman had the conversation with himself instead, his lips moving slightly.

“You ever read, ‘So Long and Thanks For All the Fish? No? You should, great book. Shame he died so young. Anyway, there’s this guy in it who’s a rain god. Right? Crazy, I know. He doesn’t realize it- that’s what’s so awesome- but even so he’s worked out a whole vocab system for describing rain, based on the Eskimo system and all their different words for snow. You know, because it snows every day in Alaska. Well, in his world it rained every day, and here in Florida, it rains every day…”

Then, from one gust to the next, the drops swelled and grew interspersed. Soloman and Carlo’s eyes met. The drops were serious now, the harbingers of a tropical rain storm, ponderous and drenching.  

Soloman twisted on the remote control's kill switch and swung the knuckle boom around in a scything arc back over the truck bed, dropping the fork unit with the pallet at the same time. Its 350 pounds caromed wildly in the air and he forced himself to slow down and be responsible. Carlo had snatched up the clipboard then disappeared somewhere out of sight; his own problem. Carefully on the tatty old granules, Soloman stepped down the slope towards the ladder, gingerly, his feet as flat as possible. The strap of the now dormant remote tried its best to strangle him and pull him off balance as it swung away from Soloman’s hip, but it was an old adversary and he gained the top rung.

One foot and one hand on he twisted the remote’s spring loaded knob back into the operating position again, continuing to descend as it came slowly to life, not looking, jumping his gloved hand three rungs at a time. When he judged it possible, Soloman braced the heel of his right hand against the remote's safety bar and eased down the third lever from the left with a deliberate application of force, pinching it between finger and thumb. The rev unit fired up, for once, diverting the appropriate power to the PTO unit and the massive forks dipped alarmingly towards the bed of the truck.

“Easy, easy…” whispered Soloman.  

He slipped on the last rung, but caught himself. That didn’t matter; his left hand and feet were one thing, his right, locked to the remote and not knowing what the other was about, quite another. On the ground now anyway, dancing around the truck, one eye on the wet grass looking out for shovels and pop top nails and slick half shingles, ducking beneath the outrigger leg. Clear of it, he stood up and… he had not been clear. The greasy leg struck him hard below the shoulders, right where it had done a hundred times before, re-marking the shirt as a work only garment. The black grease ridges striped across the back looked like an oriental mountainscape, riffled with pines.  

The rain was coming thicker now. The drops, already as fat as they were going to get, crowded together, moving in wild affrays, like armies whose generals have become deranged.   

The pallet was close enough for conscious sake and Soloman abandoned it, dashing back the way he had come. An inch of sluicing water streamed across the slick black driveway, spinning in floral patterns around his feet as if old Van Gogh were dashing it down from on high, the million fat drips the licks of his demented master brush.  

Dashing for the cab Soloman spied Carlo beneath the covered entrance to the house and veered towards it instead, slapping his hand hard against the red kill button without realizing he was even doing so, so habitual was the motion. It’s functions uncancelled, an errant movement on the jostling remote would enable a wrecking ball. The drops were just on the rational side of chaos as Soloman flung himself beneath the cover. As he did so, as if some Titan had been holding back floodgates, straining against a fury, down the deluge came.

The two men stool like boys, grinning into the blast. The roof over their heads was only half loaded, the sodden truck nearly full and a wet, miserable day stretching out before them, but their underwear were dry, and their socks .  

The rain was insane.  

It should not even be called rain, Soloman decided. It was like, Kraft mac ‘n cheese, or, Pizza Hut pizza; good, but fundamentally different foods entirely from real macaroni and cheese, real New York style pizza. They should have different names and so should this rain… and so it did, it did have a different name. He just hadn’t though of it yet.  

Soloman’s rain lexicon would have a word for a rain when it was the first, the first tropical storm of the season. The sort which gave you just enough time to get under cover, the sky behind it that particular shade of blue which was as precise and regular as a watch- this tempest would be over in exactly eleven minutes and thirty seconds. It was a rain which caused the sated ground to instantly flood, its drops so fat you felt every single contact and could gauge your wetness to a nicety. A rain so hard that the earth splashed back, muddying tires and swirling like the strokes of a Dutch master. It’s inaugural drops were like feelers, the first tentative notes to a great symphony, and somehow made you feel as though you could dance between them and not get wet. A rain that turned you into a nymph and brought a smile to your face because you knew that it was not serious, had no designs on your roof or your car, or that tree in your yard which had been there since, well, before you, anyway. It's water smelled like places he had always wanted to go but knew that he would never see. It was a spoiled rain, like a child, but the offspring of good folk and not ill-natured at heart, one whose caprices one might ignore with indulgence and a smile because they showed what would doubtlessly turn out to be character.

At eleven minutes, or what Soloman imagined was eleven minutes, the drive went out of the rain. It had not yet begun to slacken but the heart was gone and he breathed out, in and out, turning off that back portion of his mind which was thinking about time lost and all the other things that had still to be done that day.  

In that last minute, when the end was inevitable- the indefatigable sun lancing through to chase the water as it scampered laughing back into its ancient strongholds below the sand- Soloman could enjoy the storm without reservation.  

He grinned, and Carlo grinned and neither spoke and the rain went on and both knew that it would pass and that it was better to be alive, watching it, than the other, even if nothing else was good.

Was it… magical rain, was that the name for it, or was that pretentious and stupid? Probably, probably stupid. But the weight had eased out of his neck and he didn’t feel dark inside because he, and they, and everyone, had to wait for it to stop, one way or the other, because it superseded all that other stuff, because it was impersonal and maybe it was magical. Perhaps magic was not what one expected it to be.

Soloman looked over at Carlo. He thought about saying something, but it just wasn’t worth it and he let him be, staring mutely into the dwindling fury, a smile on his pain slashed face.  

‘If we understood magic, it wouldn’t be magic,’ he thought.  

Soloman frowned and then forgot about that sort of thing, letting his mind go blank, letting the rain fall inside of him, letting life and the day get on with themselves.

September 24, 2021 23:36

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Sj Lemon
05:00 Oct 02, 2021

Wow! So much to love in this piece. Such great language and really clever storytelling throughout. Soloman's internal dialogue is well-crafted and delivers so much of his character. We never have to be told Soloman was pessimistic; instead we get "It was a black day and a black goddamned life." We never have to be told Soloman was tired; we get the five thirteen hour shifts in a row, the apathy toward his gloves, the slight disassociation as he disdains his coworker and conducts his own conversations. I love how you closed the loops from t...


Ben Rounds
11:20 Oct 02, 2021

Thank you so much for reading. I appreciate the long, thoughtful critique. I can see where the wife and father section might need clarification. You know how when you draw something from too close to home you sometimes assume people will know what you mean. She didn't plan to predecease, is just such a daddies girl that she can't imagine her life after. By mental illness I meant that she is so distraught that it is akin to a mental illness, not actual; not rational rage. The, goddamn Egyptians, I was thinking of were the families and ...


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Peggy Rounds
00:22 Oct 02, 2021

vert enjoyable; intersting comment on the rain. Like the idea of difference names for different types of rain; and the magic of the rain!


Ben Rounds
01:14 Oct 02, 2021

Thanks. You should re-read, 'So Long and Thanks For All the Fish...'


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Florencia Menna
20:04 Oct 01, 2021

Hi Ben! Very good story! I felt the thick drops fall on me too as I was reading, as well as the movements of the characters. Very nice final message. Good job!


Ben Rounds
01:17 Oct 02, 2021

Hi Thank you so much for reading. I didn't think they were going to let this story in. I honestly feel there is real magic in the world, but it has nothing to do with wizards. People making music is magic. Storms are magic. The ocean is magic. Friendship is magic.


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