“Rain Dance” by Sara Jarecke

Short Story

I can’t play with Gracie today.  Mommy says that all the aliens have to stay inside. I asked her why, and she said that they can’t touch the rain.  I asked her why, and she said because. And I don’t know what that means, because because isn’t an answer.

They’ve only been here for seven months, and they’ve never had to go inside before. I thought Gracie would be out here celebrating with me, dancing in the rain like we normally do on a day when it doesn’t rain.  I especially thought she’d be out here dancing today, because it’s the first time that its rained in a long time. I don’t know why the rain makes it different.  Out on the street, there were people everywhere, dancing. They all had big smiles on their faces. It was cramped, and steamy, the rain making the road smoke a little.  It was misty purple, of course, and it was starting to smell like melty sidewalk. Mommy stayed with her friends, laughing and twirling umbrellas.

¨I’m going to go play, Mommy!¨ I yelled at her through the noisy rain.  It was loud when it bounced off the rusty tin roofs. ¨Over there!¨ I pointed to where the rest of the kids from the district were playing.  She nodded to me with a smile, and twirled her blue umbrella.

I ran over to the front of the Marvins´ house, the one that always had the white hopscotch drawings on the sidewalk in front of it.  There were a lot of kids there, screeching in joy and jumping on the squares. Someone was bouncing a ball.

¨Hi Vinny!¨ Morgan said, waving her hand high above her head.  ¨Come play with us!¨

I walked over, nervously grabbing the bottom of my t-shirt and fiddling with it.  ¨Hi Morgan!¨ I said. I tried to sound cheerful, but I felt guilty instead. ¨Um,¨ I started, and the rest of the kids looked at me.  ¨Have any of you seen Gracie?¨ Ron stopped hopscotching. ¨I’ve looked everywhere, and I can’t find her.¨

They were quiet for a minute, and I felt guilty again.  Why weren’t they looking for her too? She always played hopscotch with us after school, and I felt bad because she was missing the rain.  Where could she be?

Morgan laughed.  ¨What do you mean, Vinny?¨ She said, confused.  ¨All of the aliens are inside. They can’t come out in the rain!¨

That was weird.  I didn’t expect her to have the same answer as Mommy. ¨But why?¨ I asked, unsatisfied with the same answer as before.  ¨Gracie always plays with us. Why does she have to stay inside?¨

This time, Ron laughed.  He shuffled his foot over the white chalk hopscotch.  ¨Because, Vinny.  They’re aliens!  They cant come outside today!¨  Sammy crossed their arms over the ball, stopping the bouncing sound.

¨Come on Vinny, you always play with Gracie!¨ They said.  ¨She’s an alien. Don’t forget who your real friends are.¨  

I cocked my head, and the guilty feeling came back again.  What did he mean, real friends? Gracie was my real friend.  Ever since she came here seven months ago and moved in next to me.  She always played with me, and Sammy never did. I didn’t know why they were doing this.  I needed to find Gracie.

I turned and ran back down the street, away from the Marvins´ and hopscotch.  Toward Gracie’s house. Everyone said she was inside, so she must be at home. I ran on the steaming cement, dodging dancing people and yellow twirling umbrellas.  Finally, I arrived at the tall flats that Gracie lived in. I stepped over the white chalk line that divided the ground between our two houses.

There were no people, anymore.  It was too quiet, the sounds muffled.  I could still see a few of them from around the corner, and I could still kind of hear them laughing and singing.  There was hardly anyone on my street. I stepped back and back, trying to get a good look at her window. It was foggy, because of the rain, of course.  

But I could see her.  

She was sitting on the normal windowsill that we always sit on at her house.  Her dark hand was holding her face, and she stared out the window, down at the street.  She looked like she was sad. Her other hand was drawing shapes in the foggy window. I waved and waved at her, but she didn’t see me. I tried jumping, but the rain seemed to keep pushing me down.  I felt guilty that she couldn’t play with us in the purple rain.

I walked up to the front steps of her flat, and noticed a bright purple sign taped to her door.  The words were in bold black letters, with lots of exclamation points.

ATTENTION!  ACID RAINFALL ON 77/2234.  THIS HUMAN DISTRICT IS REQUIRED TO REMAIN INDOORS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.  

I sat on her steps until the rain stopped and Mommy made me step over the white chalk line again.