The Rain Dogs (O How We Danced)

They said she always danced when it rained, but he hadn’t believed it; had hardly believed in her, to be honest, until he met her that October evening under a weeping moon. He was seeking shelter under the nearest tree when he glimpsed her standing with her face upturned to catch the moon’s tears.

Her skin glistened as brown as the chestnuts just coming into season and her hair was as black and as wild as the grackles which kept vigil at her window. He couldn’t tell how much of the moisture on her face was her own tears and how much came from the sliver of orange moon overhead.
She turned and looked at him as he gaped open-mouthed, almost oblivious to the patter of the rain [steadily growing stronger] and the yipping of her dogs in the distance.
“Dance with me?” she said, and he wasn’t sure why he stepped out from the spreading shadows of treelimbs and into her arms.

He had been expecting a whirling, wild witchdance. He was not expecting to be pulled into the brisk steps of a polka. She laughed up into his face, delighted at his astonishment. He felt almost ridiculous at first, but it was only them, and she was beautiful. He lost himself in the sounds of the dogs and the rain and their feet (his in his heavy shoes, hers bare).
He couldn’t have said how long they danced. He was completely absorbed in the steps; so absorbed he didn’t realize that he was soaked through– didn’t realize that the rain was now pounding down and their footsteps were now splashing in the grass. He looked at her through the rain dripping from his hair and saw the wild light in her eyes. He began to falter.
“We must keep up the dance,” was all she said, and she yanked him almost cruelly with her as she turned.
Shouldn’t I be leading? he almost asked, wondering even as the thought occurred how it could possibly be important with the rain in his eyes and his feet almost to the ankles in muddy brown water.

“It is time to dance,” she said, though he could barely hear her above the pounding of the rain. His feet moved almost of their own accord.
“It’s flooding,” he cried desperately, his voice echoed by a piercing howl as a dog streaked past them and away up the hill in a spray of water. Water was swirling around their shins now, making it difficult to lift his feet, and he wondered frantically how it could have gotten so high.
“It’s October,” she cried, and this time her voice carried over the rain and the rushing of the water. His feet were almost pulled out from under him by the churning brown froth and he stopped the dance abruptly, yanking away and turning towards the hill. She started to reach for him, then stopped.
He scrambled desperately towards the high ground, but there was nothing but mud beneath his feet and he slipped, grasping desperately at nothing.  The current rolled him over once before he landed against the solid trunk of the chestnut tree. He snatched at the nearest branch and pulled himself out of the water, turning in horrified fascination to observe his dance partner.

The water was up to her waist but she didn’t seem to notice.  She was whirling now, somehow keeping her balance; her face and palms were turned up to the sky, her arms outstretched.
“Run,” he cried, his voice hoarse, and he didn’t know if she heard him. The water carried all kinds of debris and the body of a horse was tangled in the lowest limbs of the chestnut tree.
She started to laugh.

When the water reached her chest she half waded, half swam to the tree and he thought for a brief, relieving moment that she was going to join him in its relative safety. Instead she merely held onto the tail of the dead horse, looking out into the rising waters with an eerie serenity.
It wasn’t until she turned and looked up at his face that he saw a hint of panic in her eyes. Her voice was steady.
“It is time to dance,” she said, and then she let go.


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