New Fiction: Rainmaker (Part I)
October 19, 2001
This newest story represents another example of stream of consciousness writing and my desire to continue writing "serious" fiction that explores new concepts regarding super-hero archetype. These concepts will be more noticeable in the latter half of the story which will appear in the 10-26-01 installment of Wide Awake.
The champagne-colored Volvo began to float away. I watched it from the relative safety of the third story window of the Lakehurt Physician’s Hospital. It was but one of the mass of automobiles in the hospital parking lot that had fallen victim to the floodwaters. I’d been watching the lot for the last half hour. As the floodwaters had risen, dozens of cars, trucks, and sport-utility vehicles had taken leave of the ground—had become, of themselves, flotation devices that each sluggishly drifted across the length of the lot with the current, some being tossed atop one another like a massive orgy of industry, until the waters saturated their interiors firmly enough that the vehicles were once again ground to the earth. The Volvo joined its brethren in water-soaked ruin.
Veronica lay comatose on the patient bed behind me, oblivious to the rainstorm, engaged in a storm of her own—one of survival. The electronic “beeps” that represented her heartbeat were an accompaniment to the steady rhythm of the rain, which smacked upon the hospital windows in staccato rhythm. I looked at my younger sibling, half expecting she would open her eyes and smile, but I knew in my heart that it wasn’t going to happen. “It’s not my fault,” I said, pleadingly. As flashes of lightning erupted in the darkened sky, I saw my reflection in the window. I was afraid—a fear I’d not felt in 26 years—not since the night of my seventh birthday.
When I was seven, my mom threw an elaborate cocktail party. Publicly, she did this in celebration of my birthday; in reality, she was celebrating the release of her newest novel. I was her only child—Veronica would be born two years thereafter, following mom’s brief affair with publicist Murray Goldstein. Goldstein who would later publicly deny the tryst in his best-selling book Galleys Between the Sheets, and though mom often made the threat, she never proceed with a slander suit.
Mom wrote what can most politely be described as erotic romance fiction, although many critics regard her work as “trash.” Brooks Lasher (whose name perhaps not coincidentally is an anagram for R. Book Slasher) of the Dallas Star called her writings “the worst the 20th century has to offer.” Mom’s parties were funny little social engagements in which she sought the acceptance and, quite honestly, admiration-bordering-on-worship, of her literary friends, colleagues, and associates. Denise Darkschilde, author of the popular Witherspoon Family Vampire Chronicles series, would be there, a martini in each hand, as she’d describe to the crowd her latest sexual liaison, invariably with such graphic details that the partygoers would either hang onto her every word or walk away in disgust, depending on their personal feelings about the subject matter. C. J. Zellers Jr. (who had continued to ghost write the Daisies in the Alcove series popularized by his dearly departed mother) could always be found clamoring at the bar where he would tell his tales of childhood abuse “by that cow-whore of a cheap book scribe” to anyone who would listen to his unbottled, nonvintage winery.
Without question, the guest list at these get-togethers included the region’s newspaper features editors and tabloid social columnists. The number of column inches in the next day’s newspapers became the determining factor as to whether mom’s parties were a success; more often than not, they were wildly successful.
Such was the case of the Halloween party during which the alleged homosexual novelist Barry Alperts was found in the servant’s bedchamber in a sexually compromising position with a companion who was most assuredly female. This “news” was published in virtually every tabloid within the following week and severely damaged Alperts’ career. Alperts’ popularity as a novelist had largely been due to his openness regarding his homosexuality. He’d been quoted various times as saying “I am a gay man; thus, I think I understand better than anyone how the mind of a gay man works.” His novels featured gay protagonists and antagonists. He gained a huge following with the gay and lesbian population and often was asked to speak at rallies to champion gay and lesbian rights and to emcee at AIDS walks throughout the nation. Following the tabloid’s revelation, a television news team began an investigation into Alperts’ private life. They learned that 1. Alperts was, and had always been, a heterosexual male; 2. while he publicly supported gays and lesbians, Alperts had made massive contributions to both national and international hate groups and anti-gay and lesbian groups; 3. much of his work had been ghost written by his 21-year-old niece. The report aired nationally and more or less destroyed Alperts’ career.
Throughout my childhood I watched it all—the parties, minglings, hand shakes, wheels and deals, catty talk, and illicit behaviors. I’d often move through the dining room into the kitchen, back out, and into the sitting room where I’d be patted lightly on the head; occasionally I’d be hoisted into the air by a buffoon who’d had one too many Tom Collins’ and told “What a cute little boy you are! Yes you are!” before being released and left to my own devices. Mostly, however, I was ignored, and I preferred it such.
The celebration honoring my seventh year of life was held on a Sunday in November and had been no less extravagant than any of the parties my mother hosted. My childhood chums were, of course, not invited, save for those few who were children to other celebrities of notoriety. The children who were in attendance were mostly strangers to me. Mom had hired a psychic for the party, saying “they’re all the rage these days.” In fact, the psychic had been her agent’s idea saying it would tie into the supernatural aura of her new novel, “Sexually Bewitched.” Thus, the antique marble dining room table had been cleared of its various candelabras, punch bowls, and pate garnishes and, occupying the table’s head was an elderly, dark-skinned woman. Her attire was colorfully new to me—the various scarves and drapings she wore consisted of the brightest reds, greens, blues, yellows, and blacks. In her wrinkled, dry hands she held an oversized deck of cards. She was a tarot reader, though at the time the phrase was unknown to me. Throughout the evening, she entertained the guests one by one, revealing their utmost past and present secrets, and foretelling their futures, be they promising or hopeless. The guests’ attitudes and behaviors had varied from civil politeness to uncompromising animalistic rudeness. Nobel-prize-winning poet L. K. McGraw, upon being told that his future would be met with “quiet desperation and destitution,” stormed away from the table bellowing a menagerie of profanity that would add a rosy, embarrassed glow to the cheeks of Lenny Bruce. As the midnight hour approached, the novelty of the tarot reader had worn wafer thin as most of the guests progressed to other means of social entertainment. In the excitement of it all, my birthday had been forgotten. I’d decided to sneak into the kitchen, remove the three-layer cake from the refrigerator, and celebrate singly. I walked nervously past the old woman with the tarot deck. She sat at the table, the deck in her hands, with her eyes closed. As I squeaked past her, she opened her right eye and stared directly at me.
“How you doing?” she asked, in an accent that was Southern thick like syrup.
“That’s good. You seem like a nice boy.”
There was a heavy pause. Her left eye slowly opened.
“You having a good party?”
“I guess so.”
“Well, either you is or you isn’t. It’s your birthday ain’t it?”
“Well, then you ought to know whether you having a good time of it.”
“It’s alright, I guess.”
“Seems to me like a lotta these folks been payin’ more attention to themselves then to you.”
“You know what I do?”
“Mom said you’re a psychic.”
“How come you don’t have a crystal ball?”
She chuckled. “I’m not that kind of psychic. But I can tell you about the future. You wanna know about your future?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Will it hurt?”
She laughed again--a short, kind giggle, and replied, “Course it won’t hurt.”
I sat down on the chair next to her. She handed the deck of cards to me and, in doing so, her hands touched mine. The cards dropped onto the table and slid to and fro. She seemed nervous, as if she’d been somehow distracted.
“Let me see your hands,” she said, and I held my hands out to her. She took hold of my hands with hers, at which point she froze. Her body tensed, and her hold upon my tiny fingers tightened. I tried to pull free but could not. Her head began to move slowly in a counter-clockwise fashion and her eyes became blank white sockets. Once more I tried to free myself from her hold. Her body began to shake, to vibrate, with incredible fierceness. She began speaking a language I could not comprehend. In panic and in fear for my safety, I cried out. The conversations from the surrounding rooms were many and were loud, but a few who had heard my plea entered the room. They approached with cautionary interest. Someone remarked a silly little phrase on the order of, “I say, what goes on here?” and I couldn’t tell if it were me or the psychic who was being addressed. Somehow, I broke free of her maddening grip—my fingers were numb and would remain numb for hours. Our eyes locked—hers and mine. Mine, young and terrified; hers, old and certain. As the old woman was being escorted out of the house, she stared at me and I felt a pressure on my frontal lobes. Something I couldn’t comprehend was happening. I felt the pressure again, felt a pounding as if some unseen force were trying to enter my mind. And then I heard her speak inside my brain. One word, repeated many times, but each time with the same utter conviction: Rainmaker.
Outside the hospital, the parking lot--which had become a veritable automobile graveyard--fell into utter darkness. Lightning had struck a nearby transformer, and the parking lot lamps ceased their illumination. Within the hospital, the lights flickered and failed. Moments later, they were restored, probably through the use of the hospital’s emergency generator. This was but a momentary saving grace. The rains would not cease, and Lakehurst was but one city. This storm was not limited to one city, or one region. It was not isolated in a specific geographic area of the country. This storm was consuming the world, and it would not stop. And despite my earlier plea to Veronica, despite my proclamation that this was not my fault—it was. The old woman psychic had been right. I was the rainmaker, and I’d set forth the chain of events that were going to destroy the planet.
NEXT: RAINMAKER continues
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