Charles Bukowski

We Ain't Got No Money, Honey, But We Got Rain

Call it the greenhouse effect or whatever, but it just doesn't rain like it used to. I particularly remember the rains of the Depression era. There wasn't any money, but there was plenty of rain. It wouldn't rain for just a night or a day; it would RAIN for 7 days and 7 nights, and in Los Angeles, the storm drains weren't built to carry off that much water. The rain came down THICK and MEAN and STEADY, and you HEARD it banging against the roofs and into the ground. Waterfalls of it came down from roofs, and there was HAIL, big ROCKS OF ICE, bombing, exploding, smashing into things, and the rain just wouldn't STOP. All the roofs leaked - dishpans, cooking pots were placed all about; they dripped loudly and had to be emptied again and again. The rain came up over the street curbings, across the lawns, climbed up the steps and entered the houses. There were mops and bathroom towels, and the rain often came up through the toilets: bubbling, brown, crazy, whirling, and all the old cars stood in the streets, cars that had problems starting on a sunny day. The jobless men stood looking out the windows at the old machines dying like living things out there. The jobless men, failures in a failing time, were imprisoned in their houses with their wives and children and their pets. The pets refused to go out and left their waste in strange places. The jobless men went mad confined with their once beautiful wives. There were terrible arguments as notices of foreclosure fell into the mailbox. Rain and hail, cans of beans, bread without butter; fried eggs, boiled eggs, poached eggs; peanut butter sandwiches, and an invisible chicken in every pot. My father, never a good man at best, beat my mother when it rained as I threw myself between them, the legs, the knees, the screams, until they separated. "I'll kill you," I screamed at him. "You hit her again and I'll kill you!" "Get that son-of-a-bitching kid out of here!" "No, Henry, you stay with your mother!" All the households were under siege, but I believe that ours held more terror than the average. And at night as we attempted to sleep, the rains still came down, and it was in bed in the dark watching the moon against the scarred window so bravely holding out most of the rain, I thought of Noah and the Ark and I thought, it has come again. We all thought that. And then, at once, it would stop. And it always seemed to stop around 5 or 6 a.m., peaceful then, but not an exact silence because things continued to drip, drip, drip. And there was no smog then, and by 8 a.m. there was a blazing yellow sunlight, Van Gogh yellow - crazy, blinding! And then the roof drains relieved of the rush of water began to expand in the warmth: PANG! PANG! PANG! And everybody got up and looked outside, and there were all the lawns still soaked, greener than green will ever be, and there were birds on the lawn, CHIRPING like mad, they hadn't eaten decently for 7 days and 7 nights, and they were weary of berries, and they waited as the worms rose to the top, half-drowned worms. The birds plucked them up and gobbled them down; there were blackbirds and sparrows. The blackbirds tried to drive the sparrows off, but the sparrows, maddened with hunger, smaller and quicker, got their due. The men stood on their porches smoking cigarettes, now knowing they'd have to go out there to look for that job that probably wasn't there, to start that car that probably wouldn't start. And the once beautiful wives stood in their bathrooms combing their hair, applying makeup, trying to put their world back together again, trying to forget that awful sadness that gripped them, wondering what they could fix for breakfast. And on the radio, we were told that school was now open. And soon there I was on the way to school, massive puddles in the street, the sun like a new world, my parents back in that house. I arrived at my classroom on time. Mrs. Sorenson greeted us with, "we won't have our usual recess, the grounds are too wet." "AW!" most of the boys went. "But we are going to do something special at recess," she went on, "and it will be fun!" Well, we all wondered what that would be, and the two-hour wait seemed a long time as Mrs.Sorenson went about teaching her lessons. I looked at the little girls; they looked so pretty and clean and alert, they sat still and straight, and their hair was beautiful in the California sunshine. Then the recess bells rang, and we all waited for the fun. Then Mrs. Sorenson told us: "Now, what we are going to do is we are going to tell each other what we did during the rainstorm! We'll begin in the front row and go right around! Now, Michael, you're first!. . ."

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