My Rainbow Umbrella
The last time it rained this heavy was the day grandpa died a year ago. On that day, like today, the heavy rain was falling sideways. Today, it was very hard to stay dry even under the covered walkway, and my favorite rainbow-colored umbrella was almost broken and soaked through. I held what was left of my umbrella directly in front of me, instead of above me, because the galvanized roof of the school bus zone was doing some of the work at keeping us dry from above; but, the freezing raindrops stung my exposed ankles like shards of glass. I shivered and zipped my hoodie all the way to my chin and tugged on the strings to tighten the fleece hood around my face. I couldn’t explain why, but I felt this storm carried a sense of warning and I just couldn’t shake my anxiety. The butterflies in my stomach were starting to make me feel queasy and I squeezed my midsection tightly with my free hand.
The Lost Boy
I hated working the graveyard shift at my 24/7 diner. Only the lost, the wanderers and the completely desperate ever visited “Becky Jo’s Diner” at that time of the night. It didn’t help that we were located on a deserted stretch of US 50, the loneliest road through Nevada. Our closest neighbor was almost 25 miles away. We saw the occasional bikers, hitchhikers, and lonely drivers taking cross country road trips at this witching hour; so, visitors seeking a midnight meal or a cup of coffee to ward off sleep didn’t surprise me in the least. Nights were boring, but tonight was different.
The scorching sun announced an imminent death sentence. The dry hairs on the lonely sailor’s arms sizzled and singed, and the skin of his salty, matted forearms were practically on fire; but the man no longer cared. He had already reached the point beyond caring days ago. Dehydration caused his eyelids to disobey its natural habit of lowering to protect his vulnerable eyes, his nose hurt as he inhaled the salty air, and his bloated tongue threatened to retreat into his cotton-dry throat. Yet, there he sat, surrounded by endless water that could never be touched, even though he knew the end was near.