Chapter 7: They Come When it Rains
Slap, slap, slap, scrape. Slap, slap, squeak, scrape, slap. Slap, squeak, squeak, scrape, thump.
“This car needs new wiper blades.”
“What was that, Bev, dear?”
Bucky sat in the torn and tortured leather of the back seat of an old Chrysler that smelled of stale smoke and peppered beef. That entire day had been one wrong thing after another. She woke up in the hospital, nervous that somehow that strange woman would be looking over her and smelling of medicine, but there was no one else in the room besides Clement and her mother. So there she sat, waiting for the strange nurse who wasn’t a nurse at all to arrive and to get her moving onto whatever crazy scheme she had planned.
That didn’t happen. Bucky waited an hour without saying anything, and when she did, Clement nearly jumped out of his seat. Bucky’s mom just yawned and commented on how wonderful the news had been.
So it was time to leave the hospital and still no strange nurse. Bucky was starting to feel it might have been a dream but Clement was with her and he also had been expecting the nurse to show up, but not with the same sense of dread that Bucky had.
By the time they had made it to the parking lot, her mom noticed something was wrong with their car. It wasn’t there. Apparently it had been towed away because Bucky’s mom had parked in a space reserved for doctors needed during emergencies. Time to find another car home and no breakfast either.
It started to rain.
That was this morning and now here she was, in a very different smelling car from the one she was used to. Clement was sitting next to her, looking very sullen. It was raining hard and Bucky could see that that made him feel more miserable than he had a few hours before, like all the world was spitting at him. Bucky thought she’d try to say something cheerful, but all she got out of her head was, “Raining, huh?”
Clement moaned and sat back.
Bucky’s mother, who always called her Bev since her real name was Beverly, was sitting in the front seat. She shifted a bit and repeated herself.
“What was that you said, Bev?”
“This car needs new windshield wipers.”
“Make a note.”
Make a note was what Bucky’s mother always said when she didn’t have an answer for any question or statement as in, “This car needs new windshield wipers” or “This car needs new brakes” or “Maybe you shouldn’t watch the news so much” and so on. Bucky never made a note, but she did seem to always remember when it was necessary.
Bucky’s mom turned her head to look a little ways into the back of the car.
“So, Potty, how are you doing?”
Bucky looked at Clement and then corrected her mother, ever so respectfully.
“This is my other friend.” At that Clement seemed to smile a bit. “His name is Clement. Potty’s name is really Peter.” Her mother was silent for a moment.
“Well, whatever, I’m glad you’re out of that nasty refrigerator or whatever they found you in. And that little rat of a horrid boy that threw you into it should get thirty years, or the death penalty if you ask me.”
Now Clement frowned again.
“I’m not the one who was thrown anywhere, Mrs. Newcastle; that would be Potty.”
“Peter,” interrupted Bucky.
“Peter. And he fell; no, that’s not altogether true, he was ‘thrown’ down a well.”
“Oh good heavens!” laughed Bucky’s mom. “No one has gotten thrown down a well since, oh, Joseph.”
Clement just sat back and frowned. Bucky could hear him muttering under his breath, “I hate the rain. I hate it when people didn’t believe me and I hate how I feel right now.”
Bucky wanted to console him, but before she could say anything her mother started talking again.
“So, Clement, who exactly are you? I mean, in relation to all these friends of my daughter’s?”
“I’m the little rat boy who should get thirty years or death.” Then he started to cry.
There was a blaring of a horn, a screech of burning rubber tires and the car sluiced around on a cushion of water as it, seemingly on its own, tried to dodge an object running across the flooded street.
“Good golly!” screamed Bucky’s mom. “What was that? A dog?”
“I didn’t see anything,” said Bucky, as she strained her neck to peek out the window on Clement’s side of the car, for that was the direction her mother was looking.
“It looked like a rodent or a dog or a lizard, but it was big, too big to be a lizard, and no tail,” said Bucky’s mom.
Clement, who had suddenly stopped crying, just gave Bucky a silent look of recognition. Bucky swallowed and turned around in her seat. She wanted to cry but couldn’t.
The car adjusted to the sudden movement and everything was smooth again. The rain pelted the windshield even harder. The noise was a little frightening and so was the fact that a person couldn’t really see out the front as far as the edge of the hood of the engine. Bucky squirmed.
“We really should have a different car.”
“Don’t tell me,” countered Bucky’s mom. “I’m not driving.”
The cab driver looked back over his greasy coat covered shoulder at Bucky. “I’ve been saying that for years, but who listens?” Then he turned back to the task of driving in the most horrific rain storm that Bucky could remember being out in.
There was a sudden thump under the car.
“Ugh!” screamed Bucky, “What was that?”
“One of those rat things I reckon,” said the cabdriver. “Not a rat like you, young man,” he made clear to Clement, “but like the ones that are swarming all over the car and street.”
It was true. Through the watery windshield Bucky could vaguely see shapes of short, squat evil-looking vermin or reptiles (she couldn’t make up her mind) with bright red eyes, jumping on and off the hood of the cab as the cabdriver tried to maneuver in and around the giant gushes of rain and pot holes in the streets and herds or flocks or whatever one called them, of the strange tailless rat-like lizard things.
“I’m going to pull over.”
“Oh, no you’re not!” yelled Bucky. “Not while they’re out there. They could get us.”
“Make a note,” said Bucky’s mom. Bucky squealed and hid her head in her hands with her eyes squeezed tight. Clement just looked on in horror.
The cabdriver tried valiantly to not spin out or “hydroplane” as he said the hip kids in town called it, but he did it again anyway and the car went spinning out of control.
For two eternally long seconds, maybe five, Bucky’s whole twelve years flashed before her eyes. She saw herself as a small child, blowing out the flame on one candle on a white birthday cake. She saw her mother, long ago it seemed, standing at the doorway of their old house, shocked that her lottery ticket wasn’t the winning one, and all her hopes for a future as a television newscaster seemed to her to be dashed. Apparently Bucky’s mom felt she had to win the lottery and get a whole new wardrobe and hair style and everything a newscaster would need before she could go to newscasting school, which also cost large amounts of money.
Then her mother started watching too much TV; it was like she was hooked and wouldn’t move. There were times she couldn’t even get off the couch she was so intrigued with the news programs. Bucky had to learn to cook and clean for the two of them and to make sure her mother stood up and let the blood flow to her feet. The roles had changed and Bucky was now the mom, it seemed.
This all happened in a flash, then in a furry of screeching tires and shattering glass, the car flipped onto its side and came to a crashing halt in the now rushing river of a street somewhere several blocks from home.
Thank goodness all of them had their seatbelts on. Bucky, who sat behind the cabdriver, was on the side of the car that was up in the air and her mom and Clement were on the side that started filling with water, for the windows had cracked and split open. On the window at Bucky’s side there was a rat lizard, looking in with a toothy grin and getting pelted by all the bullet-like rain, as if it were happy they were in such a situation.
The engine had shut off automatically and the cabdriver immediately cried out, “Everybody all right?”
“There’s water coming in Mom’s window and Clement’s!” Bucky yelled back.
The cabdriver tried to reach Bucky’s mom, but couldn’t while he was strapped in. So, holding onto the door handle on his left, he pressed the release button of his safety belt with his right hand and then reached for Bucky’s mom. Grabbing her hand, he started to pull her toward him, but she was stuck in her own belt and the water was starting to rush in. Bucky could tell it was cold. Her mother was coughing and spitting and trying hard to get loose and with a final effort she was free.
Bucky did the same for Clement and he was soaked but out of his strap. Now was the moment where they had to decide how to get out, for there were several lizard rats all over the car, on top and the side, as well as out on the street and floating in the water, and the rain was punishing the ground with large and heavy drops of cold water.
Feeling that Bucky’s mom and the two kids were unharmed, the cabdriver pushed his driver side door up and over, throwing three rat lizards into the river-like street. Several more jumped up onto his arm and shoulder as he pushed and pulled his way out of the car. They didn’t bite, but they felt awfully dangerous, like there was some sort of disease about them; the same way you might feel if you had a hoard of cockroaches crawling all over your arm. He just shook them off and kept on climbing out of the car. The wind was blowing hard, making it seem like he was about to inhale pints of water. He made it out onto his side of the car, and then pulled Bucky’s mom up and told her to stand in the car while he got the kids out. She could help push if need be.
That was how it was done. Once Bucky’s door was open, the cabdriver grabbed her hand and her mom helped push her and Clement (who was holding onto Bucky’s other hand) out while the cabdriver pulled along with one arm and fought off lizard rats with the other.
Oh, the rain was cold, the wind was harsh, the water in the street was deep and they all managed to get off the car and soak their shoes and pants up to the knees. Wading through the fast rushing water and almost slipping, Bucky and Clement made it to the sidewalk, only slightly less intimidating than the street, and the cabdriver and Bucky’s mom came right up along with them.
“How far are you from home?” yelled the cabdriver, because the wind and rain made it hard to hear. He was staring at the overturned cab. It was swarming with the lizard rats. None of the creatures seemed to be bothering them at the moment; they were only interested in the car. He could see them tearing up the upholstery with their little monkey-like hands, pulling out wires from under the dash and searching through the glove compartment as if they were looking for something important. All that did was leave a mess of torn paper all over the upended front seat and broken windows.
“We’re just about there, I think,” yelled back Bucky’s mom.
“No Mom, we’re at least three blocks from home. We’ll never get there if they try to get us.”
“I’ll protect you,” said the cabdriver, and he meant it. He looked around, and found they were standing in front of a house that had a sprinkler key rod on the porch.
“I’m sure whoever lives here will let me borrow this,” said the cabdriver and he ran up and got the sprinkler key, which was not like a normal key, but was about three feet long made of metal with a handle shaped like a triangle on one end and dangerous looking prongs, two of them, on the other end. Certainly he could use it to fight off lizard rats if he had to.
So he was well armed and they were all determined to get back to Bucky’s home. How Clement was then going to get home no one knew, but Bucky offered to let him stay at her house.
“In fact,” said her mother, “we’re all going to stay there, with the fire on and hot food on the stove.” This made everyone more determined so they set out in search of the Newcastle house and for the first time since Bucky could remember, her mother made it very clear that Bucky was in charge.
Off they went, Bucky in the lead, through all kinds of puddles and wet grass and crossing dangerously wet streets, streaming with dirty, oily water and always looking over their shoulders to make sure no lizard monkey rats were following them. Several times Bucky’s mother or Clement would lose their footing, but the cabdriver was quick to catch them and made sure no one got too wet.
As they neared the street Bucky lived on, her mom and the cabdriver were now holding onto each other, as if her mom had tried on purpose to fall into the muddy flooded streets, and Bucky knew for the first time that she was feeling better and taking an interest in other people. That wasn’t going to last, however, because of what happened next.
As Bucky and Clement turned the corner onto the actual street where Bucky’s house lived, just a few houses away, Bucky looked behind her and tried to scream a loud scream but was too scared to make a noise. Coming from behind the cabdriver and Bucky’s mom was a mass of dark, beady red-eyed lizard monkey rats slowly following, like stalking cats, hundreds of them. Maybe thousands.
Bucky couldn’t say anything, but she could point and so she did. Bucky’s mom turned around to see what Bucky was pointing at. Clement had stopped as well, and looked in the same direction. As the cabdriver also turned, Bucky finally was able to say something and said the first sensible thing she could think of.
They did. Without hesitation, splashing and slipping in the street, with the heavy rain crashing down upon them, they ran. They ran, fell, slipped, got up and ran again, a whirlwind of hands and shoes, purses and sprinkler keys, boys and girls all muddy and skinned knee’d, they made it to Bucky’s porch. One would think the relief of making it home would be the first emotion they would have felt, but what they saw sitting on Bucky’s porch right in front of the door made Bucky scream, and the rest stop short as if stunned by a flying brick.
“They come when it rains,” said the Beautiful Woman, sitting there, all dressed in muddy white.