Don’t you hate it when…

…you want to enter a writing contest but you’re absolutely blocked, nothing coming to mind, and you really, really, want to enter? Or even worse, when inspiration finally hits, it hits the day before it’s due, and you have to go to work? I hate that so much. So I’ll post it here. Enjoy…

Side note: I was inspired by something I saw on FB.

A man walked on a rainswept sidewalk of his suburban neighborhood. He was anxious to get home. The walk from his bus stop to his home was a mere two minutes, but the rain, though light, was putting a damper on his already overworked spirit.

His walk was accompanied by the patter of rain striking his umbrella as he passed one neatly trimmed lawn after the other. The grey-ness of the day seemed to make the other homes sadder. It touched on something inside him, made him say out loud “Yeah, I need a beer”.

He was in sight of his home when he came across the SUV. It was parked in a driveway with its door open, about halfway in and to the edge of the drive. Like it was trying to avoid something, or someone. Then he saw the bodies.

“Oh shhhh…” escaped his lips as he hurried to them, squatting down between their heads. Two women laying side by side, holding hands. In the rain.

“Oh my God, are you alright”? He dropped his umbrella and his bag in the driveway. His jacket decided to play hide-and-seek with his phone, which made his search all the more comical.

The woman on his left, a twenty-something with short dark hair, turned her head and cried. The older woman on his right…

“Hey! Hey! Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

“But you could be hurt, let me call, wait, are you hurt…” My fumbling had me turning pockets inside-out. Now I firmly believed my phone to be in my left pocket.

The woman on the right grabbed my arm with a grip that caught my attention immediately.

“Shut up and listen! My daughter is having a panic attack and I’m trying to calm her. So could you please go away now?” Her stare seemed to outweigh Death’s glare. The woman on his left, the daughter, filled the sudden quiet with her sobs.

The man, not knowing what to do, but absolutely sure of what the mother wanted, tried a few words.

“Oh, umm, sorry, I…should…” He found his phone. He gripped it like a lifeline, leaving it in his pocket. Instinct told him to call for help. The mother stayed his hand with a look.

His arm was suddenly released, and the mother jabbed her finger back to the sidewalk. The man rose on awkward legs, uncertainty leading his next moves.

“I see, so…I should just…” The mother jabbed again, her glare never changing. The man turned, looked down at the two, and realized the connections in his brain he needed to comprehend the scene were missing. He turned back to the sidewalk and tried to make his exit as gainly as possible.

He reached the sidewalk and stopped to take a last look. The mother had by then turned her back to the street. Sobs drifted in the air as a mother’s love tried to stem them. And the light rain continued.

He didn’t know what was going on, but he sensed her distress. He couldn’t see the daughter, but he imagined her upturned face, her hair matted to her forehead. Raindrops would splash on her forehead in flourishes as she sobbed, then her nose, then her chin. One would hit her cheek, making it impossible to tell the tears from the rain.

His bumbling had made matters worse and now he had to go back for his bag and umbrella, still in the driveway where he dropped them. He didn’t relish intruding on them again, but he couldn’t just leave his things.

“Ahem” he began. “Um, excuse me.” The mother’s head perked up at the intrusion. He was committed now.

“I’m sorry to have bothered you. I…I just need to get my things.” He took a tentative step forward, then feeling emboldened walked back onto the drive. His bag was back on his shoulder and his umbrella was back in hand. He was ready to leave when he looked at them again.

He couldn’t just walk away. He had to do something. The patter of the rain on his umbrella gave him an idea.

“Umm, I hate to intrude again, but I think I can help”

“You can help by leaving, now please”. She was stern and quiet, never turning from her daughter.

“No wait please, listen. I…I know just what to do. I can tell you a story.”

The mother’s head tilted up, so that she could see what a fool looks like. Exasperation filled her face as she asked, “Are you kidding? Can’t you see we’re in the middle of something? And you think a story is going to make it better? Go Away!”

“No, really” said the man. This is a good story. It’s about a young girl who faces a challenge. And it has the happiest of endings. You’ll see. I just want to make up for my blunder. I can see that you’re dealing with a lot right now. I just want to help. Trust me, I’ll make it brief. Then I’ll leave and you never have to talk to me again. Please?”

The mother’s face didn’t change, but the man could sense the tension rising in her. She blinked at him, whether from the rain or his impertinence he wasn’t sure. Maybe I should just go, he thought, quickly. He was about to do just that when a small, shaky voice floated from the daughter’s lips. “I want to hear it” was all she said.

The mother’s head snapped back to look at her. She was still on edge, her grip on her mother’s hand said as much. The mother whispered something. The daughter whispered back.

Back and forth they went, all the while the mother was stroking the face of the daughter. Finally after a minute, the mother turned to him.

“Ok, but make it quick.” He couldn’t see her eyes, and thought that that was probably for the best. He sat down right where he was, heedless of the wet driveway. He put down his bag, held his umbrella over his head, and began.

“This is a story about a young girl named Sophie. From a young age it was plain to see that she had a real gift for art. She moved up from finger paints in Kindergarten to crayons in Grade school. At seven years of age she switched to colored pencils and never looked back.”

She could draw anything, and with tips from her teachers and numerous techniques she learned from books, her talent blossomed. Her landscapes were always welcoming, and her portraits were always stunning. Some would say that the birds in her pictures are actually singing from being so life-like. As well as the dogs and cats and any animal she drew.

But her favorite subject was her mother. She drew a picture of her mother in the kitchen. One where she’s just watching TV. One of her sleeping, and one sitting by the window. Outside, inside, this room that. And her mother would love each and every picture, and would hang them on the wall.

But finally, Sophie’s mother had enough. “Sophie! Stop drawing me. There’s so many things you could be drawing, you don’t need to draw me all of the time.”

“But Mama, don’t you like my pictures?”

“Of course I do. I love your pictures. But look around. There’s no more space for your pictures of me. Every wall in every room is covered. I’m taking them all down.”

Which she did. Sophie understood but was still a little sad bout it. So her mother made her a deal. She would keep three pictures on the wall:

The first picture Sophie drew in colored pencils at seven years old and began learning color theory.

The middle picture that she drew at ten years old, when she first learned about shading and light.

And the last picture she drew, at thirteen years old, a very realistic portrait of her turning her head.

She hung the three of them over the couch in the living room. They received plenty of admiration from visitors, friends, and family alike. The rest went into a trunk in her mother’s bedroom. Sometimes she would leaf through them, just to mark her progress.

Now that she was thirteen years old she wanted to draw a picture to commemorate the new stage in her life. But what to draw. She took many walks around town, at the mall with her friends, in the neighborhood, looking for inspiration.

“Excuse me” said the daughter.

The man was caught a little off guard from the sudden interruption. “Oh, I’m sorry. Is it not helping?”

“No, uhm,” her voice was weak but she seemed to be regaining some of her senses. “I was wondering…if you…uhm, the umbrella…”

“The umbrella…” he thought. Then a light came on. “Oh, the umbrella. Hang on.”

He scooched over to where the two lay across the wet concrete. When he was just over their heads he leaned over so the umbrella could keep the rain off of their faces.

“Thank you” said the daughter as  they began wiping their faces.

“You’re welcome”. His reply came with a smile. And with the backdrop of the rain hitting his umbrella he continued.

So Sophie was looking for inspiration and couldn’t find it. But it did find her. A single drop of rain hit her right on the forehead. She blinked at it, wiped her head, saw and felt the wetness, then cried ‘That’s it! I’ll draw a raindrop.’ She spent the next half hour trying to get a glimpse of one.

That turned out to be difficult because they were so random and fast. Then the rain got harder, chasing her inside a storefront. But that didn’t stop her. She kept trying to get the perfect look at a raindrop, bobbing up and down as if to keep up them as they fell.

When she got home she tried different ways to draw them. First she drew streaks on her paper, but that wasn’t right and it lacked the detail she craved. Then she tried watching the drops collect on doorways and windows, but by then they were simple drops, not raindrops.

She had a friend with a camera and asked her to get a shot. But because they moved so fast all of her shots were blurry.  

She tried so many things, even using the video function on her phone. But no matter what she did she could not get a clear view of a single raindrop.

One really rainy day Sophie’s mother had to pull her out of the yard. Sophie was so desperate to see one she didn’t care about getting wet or catching a cold. Her mother rushed her inside, towel in hand, intent on drying her hair, only to see Sophie running to the bathroom.

‘Why can’t I see one?’ she asked her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She was overwrought with frustration, and tears began to roll down her face. They mixed with the rain water already trickling from her hair. The drop rolled down her cheek, collected on her chin, then fell off. Another one on the other side of her face did the same. She watched these drops fall from her face, and something her mother told her once came to mind.

‘When there is a light rain, that means someone is sad. The sky is crying along with the sad person. That means that rain drops and tear drops are the same. So try not to be sad. Be as happy as you can be, and if something makes you sad, come and find me.’

Sophie watched another drop fall from her chin, then saw what she was looking for. She rushed to her room, excited to finally be able to put it on paper. She used a light blue color for the background, that being the color of her shirt when she saw it in her reflection.

Her mother came in and tried to dry her hair while Sophie drew. It turned into a real fuss when she tried to get Sophie out of her wet clothes. Sophie would not put down her pencil for a second, letting her mother grab and pull at her clothes, then grab and shove her PJ’s on her. Finally she shoved a floppy hat on her head to keep her from catching a cold.

And the whole time Sophie drew. She put all of her skills to work, adding shade where it needed it, adjusting the lighting. The hardest part was to create a clean vision of looking at something that was clear and rounded. She spent the rest of the day adding lines, removing lines, and blending colors until it was perfect.

She picked it up and examined it closely. She tilted it left, then right. She gazed at it for a time. But it didn’t matter how long she looked at it, because it was perfect. The best drawing she had ever made. And it was perfect because it came from her heart.

Sophie rushed downstairs to show her mother. But it was late and her mother was in her room sleeping. Had she really lost track of time? She went to her mother’s bedroom and listened at the door. She couldn’t tell if she was sleeping, so she opened the door and peeked in. Her mother lay on her side, quietly asleep. Sophie went to her side, and gently nudged her.

‘Hmmm’ was all she said.

‘Mama,’ she said quietly, ‘wake up, I have to show you something.’

‘Mmmmm’ was all she said.

‘Mama, wake up, you have to see this.’

‘Wha’, who…’ she said, coming out of her sleep.

‘Mama, look.’

Sophie’s mother, roused from her dreams, looked at Sophie, and asked ‘Can’t this wait til morning?’ She grabbed the blanket and tried to pull it over her head.

‘No, Mama, look at it.’ Sophie turned on the bedside lamp, which made her mother blink and try harder to move under the blanket.

‘Please Mama, just take a look and I’ll let you get back to sleep. It will only take a second. Please Mama.’

Her daughter wouldn’t let it go, so she had no choice but to look. She wiped at her eyes, took a look at the picture, and gasped.

It was indeed perfect. The rain drop had a bulbous bottom and narrow sides. It tapered upward into a long tail, and all of its curves were absolutely smooth, to the point where you couldn’t actually tell where one part of the drop began or ended. It had a little sparkle of light on one side, and it cast  a dim shadow behind it. The drop itself became sort of a lens, showing the fibers of the shirt she wore when she first saw it. Looking at it you got the sense that it was falling from a great height, its downward journey preparing it for a great splash.

Her mother covered her mouth in awe. This was a true piece of art, and it brought a tear to her eye. 

‘Sophie, this is beautiful.’

‘Thanks Mama.’

‘Will you sell it?’

‘No, I want to hang it on the wall. The last one, I promise.’

Sophie’s mother beamed at her. ‘You are the best artist I will ever know. I’m so proud of you.’

Sophie rolled her eyes and tried to hide her grin. ’Jeez Mama, stop it. You’re embarrassing me.’

The next morning Sophie’s mother hung the picture with the perfect rain drop above the three pictures of her, over the couch, with Sophie watching. When she was done she gave Sophie a big hug and a kiss on her forehead.

She asked ‘So what will you do now?’

Sophie thought about it and said ‘I think I’ll try water colors now.’

“That picture still hangs on the wall, to this day” said the man. “Some folks have offered to buy it from them.”

“Really?” asked the daughter.

“Really” he replied. “I think the last bid was five thousand dollars. But it could be much more now.”

“Wait a minute” said the mother. “I thought this was a story.”

“It is” said the man. The daughter wasn’t crying or upset now, looking at peace even as she lay on a wet and rainy driveway. “And now I can take my leave. Do me a favor” he said to the daughter. “Take care of your mom. She’s all wet and I wouldn’t want her to catch a cold.”

“Okay” she said. “I will. Thank you for the story.”

“You’re welcome. If you need to hear another one just ask. I live right over there.” She tilted her head up so as to follow where he was pointing.

“Excuse me,” said the mother. “Could you help an old woman to her feet. I need to close my car door.”

“Certainly” he said. “And you’re not old, just perfectly seasoned.”

She held out her hands as he got to his feet. She rose with a grunt with his help, but didn’t let go of his hands, not just yet. She looked him deep in the eyes and said “Thank you.”

The man saw that instead of that death glare she was giving him a look of fondness and gratitude. It made him feel awkward again, but this time in a good way.

“Well, um, okay. I mean you’re welcome, anytime.” She held onto him for another second and let him go. He stepped back so that she could close the door on her car. He grabbed his bag and said “Bye, uhh, take care”. By this time the daughter had sat up and was waving to him.  He waved back, and headed down the driveway.

Turning to his home, he couldn’t help but feel good about himself. The rain patter sounded almost musical to his ears. And he forgot all about the beer he was going to drink.

The daughter held out her hands so her mother could help her to her feet. Once upright they stood looking at each other.

“Thanks mom for coming.”

“Baby, I will always be there for you, you know that. I love you.” Then she embraced her daughter in a hug that only a mother can give.

The daughter rolled her eyes and hid her grin in her mother’s shoulder. “Jeez mom, you’re embarrassing me.”

“That’s my job too” she replied. She released her and gave her a kiss on the forehead.

“C’mon” said the daughter. “I’ve got to take care of you.” She grabbed her mother’s hand and rushed her indoors.

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