This serial story is presented in draft (unedited) form. New installments will be posted every Friday, and each installment is available for one week. Miss one? Joining late? Email me for the previous installments. Creepy reading…
The Dry Rain
Angie went to five stores before finally admitting defeat. There was no mesh, no fabric, nothing she could use to block off the vents and keep the hungry moths out. Store owners said they’d actually sold out weeks ago, to people just trying to repair damaged doors and windows, or stockpile fabric for clothing or bandages. With the factories shut down due to lack of materials, nothing was shipping, so nothing was restocking. She went back home with a few cans of whatever food they had on the shelf and a heavy heart.
When she opened the door, she stopped just over the threshold, her mind trying to process the scene before her. Her husband’s clothing – every piece, it seemed – was laid out on the floor and every piece of furniture, covering the room. Micah and Bailey sat in the middle of it all, clad in the long pants and long-sleeved shirts she’d found for them before she left, scissors in hand.
“What are you doing?” She closed the door, locking the deadbolt before setting the bag of cans on the kitchen counter. “Why are you cutting up all those clothes?”
Micah glanced at the bag on the counter and then back at her.
“I thought if you couldn’t find anything to cover the vents, we could use these. Fabric would be better anyway, to keep out the worms, right?”
Angie rubbed the side of her face with one hand. “Fabric will work for awhile, but they’ll eat through it. That’s why mesh would be better – it’s metal. But it’s all gone.” And so was her husband, so it was silly to be so upset about a child’s practical use of his clothing. But she was.
She started to pick up his clothing, working her way from the outside in, laying each piece over her arm and sometimes getting a whiff of his unique scent.
“I have other clothes you can cut up for this. Towels and blankets too. These clothes are off-limits. Next time, please ask.” She couldn’t quite keep the frost out of her voice and while Micah nodded, Bailey’s lower lip trembled, her eyes blinking rapidly.
“Are you going to kick us out?” the little girl asked.
Managing a smile as she reached the center, Angie bent down to look Bailey in the eye.
“No, I’m not going to kick you out. Not ever. But these were my husband’s, and he hasn’t been gone long. I can’t quite part with them just yet.”
Bailey nodded solemnly, though Angie wasn’t certain the girl really understood death. Surprised when short, skinny arms wound around her neck and hugged her close, Angie dropped the pile of clothes and returned the comforting gesture.
Blinking back tears, she forced a smile and pulled back. “Now let’s go find some old blankets to cut up. The guest room has several in the closet – we’ll start there.”
Bailey nodded and smiled back. She ran off toward the guest room and Angie picked up the pile of clothes again.
“I’m sorry,” Micah said, his own eyes glassy. “I thought since…well, I didn’t mean to—”
Angie went to him and put one arm around his shoulders in a half-hug. “It’s okay, really.
You didn’t know, and it was a good idea. Now go help your sister, and I’ll be right in. Anything in that closet is fair game.”
He nodded, still looking uncomfortable but he strode down the hall with purpose. Angie put her husband’s clothes away, taking the time to compose herself before she joined the children.
“You’ve been busy!”
Micah was cutting up a blanket into rectangles that would fit over the air vent ducts, and Bailey was stacking the cut pieces into neat piles. They already had enough to cover all of the vents in the house, plus extra.
Looking up from his work, Micah nodded. “I know we have enough, but I figured some extra wouldn’t hurt. How are we going to get them to stay up?”
Angie thought for a minute. “You know, I think we can do that with a screwdriver. Let me see if there’s one in the dresser – I’ve been using the top drawer for odds n’ ends.”
She dug around for a minute, and held the screwdriver up high when she found it. “This oughta do the trick! Let me show you.”
Once the children knew how to take the vent covers off, put the fabric pieces inside and screw the cover back on, Angie just sat back and watched while they did the work, occasionally helping them loosen a screw. When they were done, she sat them down in the kitchen, and they split one of the cans of beans she’d bought.
The air conditioning came on, and while it wasn’t as cool as normal, she took comfort in knowing they were protected, at least for the time being.