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Gentle Dew From Heaven

A Short Story

By Mackenzie DavisPublished 11 months ago 15 min read
5
Gentle Dew From Heaven
Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

As the first movement of Beethoven’s Sixth played from the living room, Lettie sat with her back to her bedroom window. On the opposite wall, she watched the square of silver light dimple as the rain fell around her shadow and allowed herself just a few moments to imagine a clear sky. Each morning, for as long as it took to finish her mug of tea, she stared at that wall until a green lacewing fly stumbled through her hair, a squirrel rustled the dry leaves of her oak tree, or the morning light finally warmed her shoulders.

This morning, though, her mind’s ears could only hear the faint lilt of a robin’s song. When she swallowed the last of her tea, it was cold for the first time since the rain showers had begun. She stood and drew the yellow curtains together, then walked down the hall to the kitchen, passing room after room. Together, the curtains in these rooms filtered the weak sunlight into the constituents of a prism.

The announcer on the radio mumbled something she couldn’t hear as she rinsed her mug in the sink. When she’d finished, a new song had started. She grabbed the box of oolong from the counter and walked to the far wall of the living room where an extensive cubby system, complete with an old library ladder, covered the wall entirely. Boxes, tins, and canisters of teas filled almost every cubby hole, floor to ceiling, except for the few she’d emptied in the past two and a half weeks.

After replacing the box, she made her way to the foyer and pulled on her rain garb: pink polka-dot galoshes, plastic hat splashed with tulips, and a bright blue raincoat. Finally, she grabbed the lime umbrella. She’d bought the lot on the first day of the showers, when the inconvenience of rain had threatened to interrupt her daily walks. Now, the dirt roads she used to favor had liquefied into thickened, churning riverbeds; as they rose, growing both in girth and power, more and more suburban gardens were carried out of the neighborhood.

The world was drowning, and Lettie walked the streets. As puddles became lakes and houses shrank a half-foot with each passing week, she forced herself through the rising floodwaters, digesting the tears of a confused sky. This was more than routine. It was breathing.

As she stood there in her foyer, flutes and oboes trilled above a slowly building orchestra and for a minute, she believed her own curtain tricks. Minute two floated a house finch’s song above the 8 a.m. traffic. Minute five brought a blue jay to her well-contained birdbath. And as minutes ten and eleven came and went, children squealed from the ninety-degree blacktop, a Mister Mister forming a glistening rainbow.

“That was the second movement of Alexander Glazunov’s ballet score, Les Saisons,” said the announcer. “Up next is Frühlingsstimmen by Johann Strauss II…”

But before it could begin, Lettie smiled and pushed open the door.

The world froze: Lettie’s head ducked into the safety of her parachuted umbrella, which glowed in the light of an incorrectly bright sunbeam. No distant shhhh of a rain shower met her. She was little more than a silhouette emerging from a tunnel.

The grass-green door clicked as she splashed down the driveway and turned right, the umbrella two shades darker and heavier in less than a minute. In eighteen days, the walking path had flooded with a foot and a half of water, and with each day’s footsteps, her splashes resonated more richly against the lidded atmosphere.

Though her calves ached with the added inch of resistance and her umbrella did little to keep the biting air off her neck, Lettie drank in what little color she could pick out and sighed happily. Clumps of algae floated down the river, appearing as strands of seaweed or little fish. Just ahead, a reflective yield sign glowed like a sunflower. And flanking her were the houses where neighbors had retreated once the flood had begun, the memory of painted doors and window frames blurring into a summer mural as she passed.

Every so often, Lettie would leave one of her feet behind, traps of mud pretending to capture them, but she would simply back up and retrieve her footing. Soon, her splashes had decrescendoed into a humming slosh, her galoshes growing ever more intimate with the mud below. Before she’d made it to the end of the third block, they’d simply refused to rise again.

“Seriously?” she muttered, attempting to shake her galoshes loose; her ankles throbbed in protest. She twisted in place. The barn-red chimney pipes of her house teased her periphery, easy to spot in the gray. Sweat began to chill her neckline and underarms, sticking the plastic to her skin. Murky floodwater now began filling her shoes. Factoring in the time she’d paused and her future barefoot return trip, she judged roughly four minutes until her toes went numb.

With a sigh and a shudder, she stepped out of her boots one at a time, testing the effect of her socks in the surrounding area. No. She unhooked the heels then tiptoed into the mud, left foot, right foot, and finally pulling out of her glued-down socks, hopped into a barely visible patch of submerged sidewalk. The handles of her boots vibrated like the antennae of a river monster and her heart sank as they returned to the unseen depths.

Sopping wet, she rolled her pant legs up above her knee and carefully picked her way home. Her fingers could barely feel the handle as she stumbled over the threshold. With the door’s very final click, a distant rumble sounded, continuing even as Lettie hung up her umbrella and coat. It made her wonder if someone was attempting to drive and was failing. Many people had played it safe once the fourth inch had accumulated and locked themselves in their homes. Even her niece, who’d insisted that it would have to clear up (“as all storms must”), called her a week and a half ago to say she wouldn’t be in the neighborhood.

“I don’t want my car to stall,” Talia said, her voice attempting to mask rising panic with a practical tone.

“Hey, worst case scenario, just walk the rest of the way here and stay with me,” Lettie said, hoping it would change her mind. “Maybe you could leave the orange room for a change. Try green this time.”

“Auntie, you know I’d love to, but I gotta be here for mom. You know she’d break down watching the water rise this fast.” There was a pause on the line as they both imagined it swallowing the roofs they’d chained themselves under.

Lettie forced a smile, so it would bleed into her voice. “This is sure to end any day now, just like you’ve been saying. It’s hardly a downpour, anyway.”

“Yeah.”

Another pause.

“Just don’t drive yourself insane dealing with that mother of yours.”

She laughed. “I’ll call you when I feel my scream coming on, don’t worry.”

“I’ll miss your beautiful face, love,” Lettie said, still plastering on a smile.

“Bye, Auntie.”

After the call, Lettie had sat in her bedroom rocking chair, sipping a mug of rose vanilla puerh, and stared through the doorway at the orange curtains across the hall. It was as if sunset had come early there. A hot tear dripped from her chin and onto her lap, remaining until it felt like a cold raindrop. Then it faded like it had never been there at all.

Lettie ground her fingertips into her palms. No one had driven since Talia called; cars littered the streets like carcasses in a drought. The rumbling had moved now, seemingly more distant and in less than a minute, had faded completely. Lettie peered out her window. Nothing.

A slight dread pooled in her gut, but there was no way of finding out what it was unless it moved into her line of sight. Images of people setting house explosions to hasten their deaths, of cars floating down hills and crashing into buildings, of an endless series of streetlights falling like dominoes flickered through her mind as she rubbed her hands together vigorously. We’re not there yet—are we?

“Fuck,” she muttered, and tried to warm her fingers faster with her breath. She slipped her feet into the slippers by the door and went to the kitchen, placing the kettle back on the stove, then made her way to the cubbies, choosing a nice white jasmine. On her way back, she turned up the volume on the radio. Grieg’s Morning Mood sailed over her and down the hall, and she watched it tease out the light from each room and swirl them together.

The kettle whistled.

Rather than take her tea back to her bedroom, she stopped short, perching on the end of the bed in the orange room. The music’s swells mixed with the taste of tea filled her lungs with a floral breeze. In a gondola, she sailed down a glacial-blue river somewhere undefined and far away, an unpinned sky shrinking the arrowhead peaks and resting their essences atop the water’s surface. This was water that knew strength in length, not volume. Lettie felt she could slip into it and live forever, the water’s trust for the riverbed soaking in to replace her breath.

For a moment, she lowered her face into the mug and inhaled the steam. It condensed and dribbled back into the cup. Plip. With a sunken mind, she rested her forehead on the cup’s rim, feeling the steam on her throat. The rain dribbled onto some random piece of metal outside. Plip, plip. Her body pulled down, down, folding over her knees until she was a puddle of water indistinguishable from a spilled cup of white jasmine tea, cold as the rising flood outside her door.

Plip.

When the light began to fade, Lettie stood and closed the curtains in the orange room so fast, she knocked her knuckles together. Without a backward glance, she pulled the door closed and imagined it locked.

When she called her sister’s number, it rang and rang and rang. When she called it for the tenth time, the voicemail greeting began to sound aggrieved. Somewhere near the thirtieth attempt, a three-note arpeggio lowered her to her knees.

We’re sorry. You have reached a number that is out of service or has been disconnected. Please try again.

* * *

Overnight, the storm increased in intensity, far surpassing the standard definition of a “downpour.” Within an hour, six inches had accumulated, the splashing drops conjuring images of Gene Kelly tap dancing with a 102-degree fever.

She lay on her side, wrapped in a gray robe, in the hall outside the orange room. The pillow was damp beneath her. Every half hour or so, the mysterious rumbling sound broke the monotony of drowning and after the sixth, she finally understood what it was.

Houses were collapsing.

It wasn’t long until the rumbling arrived in her street and by this point, she’d inched herself to press almost painfully into the door of the orange room. She covered her ears. When the house next door crumbled in flashing electrical lights and was swallowed by the salivating sky, she thought she might have started hallucinating.

An empty mug of tea occasionally wafted the smell of roasted dandelion to her, as if to invite her mind to see a different outcome. Perhaps the flashes of light had been this process short-circuiting. But then she rolled over and saw the phone just beside her pillow. Picking it up, her finger tapped the “redial” button and she held her breath.

Be-be-beep.

The storm whipped itself across the windows of the empty bedrooms, startling the phone out of her hand. The oak tree slapped the house viciously as a massive gust brought the house’s skeleton to its first protest and Lettie swore she could feel the hall tremble beneath her. Uneasy now, she scrolled down, down, until she saw Talia’s cell number, something she hadn’t thought to try until now.

As it rang, she reached into her mug and squeezed the tea bag, then drank the cold dregs.

“Hello?”

Lettie scrambled into a sitting position.

“Talia?” she whispered.

“Aunt Charlotte, thank God!”

“Where are you?” Lettie demanded. “Where are you? Are you safe? Is your mother—"

“I’m watching the news right now and I just saw your neighborhood. You gotta get out of there! They showed drone footage and yours is the only one—”

“Damn it!” She hung up. She pounded her pillow until her fists vibrated. “Damn you!” Punch. “Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Punch, punch. Then she melted onto the beige carpet of her hall, gripping the phone.

There wasn’t any news; hadn’t been since the sixth day. Dust filled her nostrils as she inhaled the carpet fibers, somehow finding comfort that she could still discover dry things.

She wrangled the phone to her face and redialed. Her eyes bore a hole into nothing as the three-note arpeggio met her ears.

Within fifteen minutes, the storm entered her basement as she made her way toward the tea cubbies. It was as if the house had answered a knock at the door, letting in hundreds of mouthless children. Blandly switching on the radio, she knelt in the middle of the wall to retrieve a particular, sealed canister. This was Zhen Shan Xiao Chung tea, the original black tea from China. It had been a gift from a nineteen-year-old Talia, the result of a study-abroad trip.

As she poured the boiling water over the tea ball, the storm shoved against each ascending stair, slopping with a pressure equal to that of a burst water main—or so she assumed. Maybe that’s what had happened. She leaned against the counter, focusing on the Corelli concerto and her breathing, remembering when she researched this tea and learned just how rare it is, produced in a limited quantity each spring, in one village, in one Eastern Chinese mountain range.

She removed the tea ball after only a few minutes; she’d have a second cup later.

The flood had moved to the third step up from the landing, and Lettie slurped until it was all she could hear. As the tea entered her body, she felt its every location from chest to shoulder blades, groin to toe.

A new light filled the room, luring her attention outward. The dawn revealed the crystalline beauty of a suburban fjord stretching out, out, out until the houses became high cliffs and the debris faded to wild grasses and flowers. A clear, alpine breeze warm with sunlight tickled her flyaways and insects flitted every way she turned. The short, rounded whistles of a fox sparrow rose above the rushing body of water.

All this was punctuated by a groan directly above the kitchen, the kind that doesn’t stop, but rises and sinks by octaves. Turning back to the counter, Lettie replaced the tea ball to her half-empty mug and swiped the canister before dashing back to the cubbies. Right as she made it to the third rung of the ladder, her roof crashed in, dumping several gallons of water into the kitchen and living room.

“Hm,” she said. An odd light had risen in her eyes as she traced the distance from the ladder to the progressively widening hole in the roof. And so, in her robe and slippers, Lettie hopped to the ground and began gathering boxes, tins, and canisters of tea; then she climbed up to the roof. The first trip, she gently placed the mug of Talia’s tea, complete with the tea ball and the canister, in the corner of the roof. By the fifth trip, she’d brought about a fourth of her tea collection onto the roof, arranging them in messy piles, haphazard stacks, and the occasional neat row. Twenty-two times she climbed the ladder and twenty-one times she descended, at last kicking off her slippers into the dissolving living room below.

The tea was cold in her mouth by now and she knew she’d have her second cup soon. Just a few more moments.

The view was startling. She stood there gazing out at a blue sky that captured the surrounding hills and gently laid their essence on the fjord’s surface. It smelled like spring and sounded like all the life in the world had been brought to this place.

Below her feet, the roofing tiles squashed in warning. She chugged the rest of her tea and returned the mug to its corner, then began tearing into tea boxes, opening up tins, and popping the lids off canisters. With each one, she emptied the tea into the glistening lake below, tossing handfuls of teabags as far as she could. Assam, bancha, Earl Grey, hōjicha, jasmine; white, yellow, black, green; oolong, Irish Breakfast, herbal, puerh, rooibos, qimen; every tea she owned fluttered and cascaded off the roof. The color of the lake was impossibly mesmerizing: golden-greens, pale yellows, and muted reds bleeding into rich grays and burnt umbers.

Lettie stepped forward, inhaled, and tipped the canister of Zhen Shan Xiao Chung slowly, almost mournfully. Then she took the dripping tea ball from her mug and unhinged it, emptying it over the side. She closed her eyes. The scent of the air was ripe with a thousand flavors. And then, almost in concert with the aroma, a lilting piano, bordering on jaunty, trailed its way up to her ears: Mendelssohn’s Spring Song.

She leapt.

Her body fluttered like a feather would from a great height. Laughter bubbled from her toes as she burst into the cliffs’ mirage and descended past the bleeding tea bags. Flowing inside the current, she opened her mouth, the tea rushing past her teeth and into her nose, even nudging her eyes open. It was a caramelized world overhung by prismatic clouds, stretching endlessly and ever higher.

As she floated over the driveway, she began to follow her old walking path. The houses stood awash in rippling oranges, yellows, and reds, their lawns green with thriving moss and algae. Just past the sparkling yield sign were her pink polka-dot galoshes. She pulled herself into them, bubbles rising to greet her, and then she ran, jumped, and spun in a circle, marveling at the life that coursed through her body. Mendelssohn drifted down from someplace ancient, inviting her on one final walk through the neighborhood, the notes tinted in an orange dew.

Short StoryLoveFantasy
5

About the Creator

Mackenzie Davis

“When you are describing a shape, or sound, or tint, don’t state the matter plainly, but put it in a hint. And learn to look at all things with a sort of mental squint.” Lewis Carroll

Find me elsewhere.

Copyright Mackenzie Davis.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  3. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

  3. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

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Comments (4)

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  • Donna Fox (HKB)4 months ago

    I made a small pot of tea for this read and it paired so well with this tantalizing story! Your use imagery and vibrant descriptive language really brought this piece to life for me! I got lost in the words and felt myself become part of the tapestry you wove as I walked along this rainy joinery with Lettie. I complete adore this piece, you have done a marvellous job here!

  • Alexander McEvoy4 months ago

    "Soft the rains like spring time's fingers. Soft the rains like heaven's tears." -Midean's Ford from the Wheel of Time. This was a beautiful story, Mackenzie! Holy cow! I loved the melting imagery and how the rains were described as something almost Lovecraftian with a mindless intelligence bent on consumption. A real master piece if you ask me.

  • Rob Angeli8 months ago

    Soft rains must fall, I suppose. First off, as a tea-lover myself, and greatly enjoying baroque/classical/romantic period music, it really hit home...although I did not see the wind-up until a decent way through. Juxtaposition of domesticity and the civilized comforts, with the omnipotence of nature's force is really splendidly welling up, from above and below, in your progressive watercolored crescendo. This is definitely one of my favorites. The ending is such a masterful stroke.

  • J. S. Wade11 months ago

    Wow ! Stunned ! The depth, the interweaving … 5D … Beautiful prose like Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain”. I certainly hope your goal is to write a novel If you haven’t already. 💯

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