by Nancy Dassy

I am the boy who lives in the puddles. When small children splash away in their yellow duck boots it is my face they stomp on. I’ve been here a long time now, looking up at the world, trying to catch a glimpse. When it rains, I can be anywhere and everywhere. Mostly, I am here in the small hollow beneath my mother’s bedroom window waiting for her to look down at me. She never does. She is always looking out, searching, remembering. I can smell her thoughts in the raindrops; they smell of wet earth and dank places, they smell of sadness and regret.

The storm swept in with a boom right in the middle of the night. I hurried to my mother’s bed and curled up against her. She ran groggy fingers through my hair trying to calm me down but I could hear the rain hammering against the panes. Looking up at the skylight above us, I could see flashes of lightning ripping through the midnight sky, hovering right above the glass like tentacles waiting to grab onto a boy’s ankle and suck him into the mouth of an angry water god. I fell asleep whimpering through the night.

The next day the rain was still strong. The man on the radio spoke of massive thunderclouds and faulty satellites. At the end of our driveway, right where the pavement met the dirt, a river of water pushed through with furious force. I asked my mother if I could stay home from school. My mom cupped my face with scratchy hands. She reminded me what Pastor Jones said: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.”

No, as long as I wasn’t sick I would be going to school. My mother watched me go. Bundled up in my warmest sweater and my very own yellow rain boots, I dragged my feet towards the open school bus door. My head slumped low. I looked into the pools of water rather than splashing through the puddles as children so often do. It was then that my eyes caught a boy looking up at me, his hands pressed up against an invisible wall. As soon as our eyes met, his hands clawed towards me, and just like that I was pulled in. To me, I fell forever. To my mother and the school bus driver, who were watching, it was an instant of me being there and then suddenly not being at all.

There were searches and investigations, theories and accusations. The police brought dogs. Sometimes the dogs would come close, they could see me but there was nothing to smell, soon they were off to search a dryer spot. People listened quietly when my mother was around and then laughed when she walked away. She was the crazy lady whose son disappeared the day of the strange storm. She spoke of furious rain and children disappearing right before your very eyes. No one wanted to hear that. They pulled their own children closer to their sides and gently shooed her away. They preferred to believe that the rain had swept me away. For weeks they searched for a body. They would’ve never found me anyways. There was no body to find and no one ever looks down into puddles of rain.

Sometimes, on rainy nights, I watch my mother’s cowboy boots make their way down the driveway and hop into her car. From puddle to puddle, I watch as she makes her way to Jimmy’s Ole’ Town Pub. I wait ’til she comes back out late into the night. Sometimes she’s alone. Sometimes a pair of Doc Martens, or Jordans or wing tipped alligator shoes are stumbling right beside her. She giggles and laughs, an ugly sound. She is not happy, she’s just afraid to be alone. I wish she would look my way. I wish she could see me the way I see her. I wish she could see herself the way I see her, because if she did, I would reach up, pull her down into this place, and at least we wouldn’t be alone.

I am a mom with a mohawk. A flight attendant with tattoos. The girl next door that watches behind the curtain.
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