started to rain on a Tuesday in April. The
morning had been beautiful--sunny, cool, with a taste of warmth in the air, a
quintessential spring day. But by
eleven o'clock the clouds had moved in without any warning, and a soft rain
It was a slow rain, a sprinkle really, not much more than that, but its
dampness worked its way into everything: the tree trunks, the walls of our
house, the basement stairs. My
clothing and our furniture felt damp, full of the rain.
Even the walls inside my closet seemed gummy and moist.
By three o'clock the rain was coming down harder.
The wind had picked up, smashing the water against our windows and doors.
I listened as it lashed out, beating its tongue against the side of our
house, a wild animal determined to get inside.
A few cracks of thunder, trailed by lightning snakes, hissed in the sky.
My hair stood on end, floating around my face like a sea urchin's
My husband laughed when I bought a rain gauge.
"What are you planning to do with that?" he asked, like most of
his questions, not expecting an answer. I
placed it in the strawberry patch, right near the walkway, where I would see it,
remember to check the rainfall, and empty it after each rain.
Nothing bothers my husband. Not
the rain, not the humidity, not the long, gray winters here in southern
After that first rain stopped, that Tuesday, I went to the garden.
The gauge showed an inch and a half.
I was pleased. I was glad to
know. It had seemed like a lot of
I awoke at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday to the sound of a waterfall.
Water cascaded off our roof, smashing onto the porch roof right outside
our bedroom window, then crashing to the sidewalk below.
The water was so thick, so quick, it looked like a moving mirror,
shimmery, silver, fluid. I watched
the water, the gallons and gallons of water, flow by.
Eventually I fell back asleep to the rushing, endless sound.
By morning it had stopped. The
rain gauge read three more inches. The
sky was the color of stainless steel. The
rain started up again around noon on Wednesday.
It was a slow, drizzly, cold rain, like a leaky faucet.
My husband came home that night, read the financial section and asked
what was for dinner. "Great.
I love your tuna casserole," he said, "It's better than my
mother's. Have I told you
"I feel like a
sponge," I said. "I don't
know how much more of this I can take."
"More of what?" he
asked, head buried in the comics.
More of what, wasn't such a bad question, but it was one I wasn't sure I
Thursday night was the first night of the dream.
I was six years old again, sitting on a gray boulder in my mother's rock
garden. This was the first place I
remember seeing slugs. I was
watching her weed, caught in the rhythm of her quick fingers as they probed for
the base of each undesirable plant, hidden under the daisies, disguising
themselves as buttercups. She was
pinching, pulling, piling the weeds at her side.
It was then that I noticed it, slowly inching its way toward her hand.
I was about to scream, "look out, slug!" but instead I glanced
down. All the flowers in the garden
had turned into pale yellow slugs. Thousands
of them inched toward me, leaving trails of slimy mucus in their path.
Hundreds of them lathered my feet, moving up my ankles, poisoning my skin
with their touch.
I woke up. I lay for a moment
debating with myself about whether or not to check my feet and ankles.
I abhor slugs. Hate their
soft, slimy, spongy, slow bodies. Here in the
The rain stopped on Saturday morning.
The sky stayed gray, the air dripped like a pair of shoes worn in a
river. Another three and a half
inches since yesterday afternoon. I
went to the shed to get my garden gloves and clippers to remove a few broken
branches from my roses, now that the rain had let up.
As I opened the shed door, a crack of gray light lit a triangle of the
floor. The floor rippled toward the
darkness. I slammed the door and
stepped back. I closed my eyes, and
took a long, slow breath. Carefully
opening the door full swing, I surveyed the shed.
Hundreds of slugs lined the walls, floor, buckets, lawn mower, and garden
implements. The light sent each one
moving, climbing over others, a slimy oily path recording their wingless flight.
I stood there, unable to pick up my feet, bend my knees, or move my
fingers away from my mouth. Do I
leave the door open to dry them out? What
if they come out and take over the garden? If
I leave the door closed, will they multiply, completely rot out the shed?
I ran to the house, and headed straight for the bathroom.
After turning on the shower as hot and hard as I could, I climbed in with
all my clothes on and slowly undressed. My
husband found me there a half hour later, standing in the shower, encircled by
my clothes, still wearing my tennis shoes, the cool water swooshing between my
toes. I shivered in the hot steam.
"Anything wrong?" He asked.
I went to bed early that day, somewhere around six or seven in the
evening. I woke up at five in the
morning to the sound of a soft rain. I
had had the dream again. Although
this time the slugs were living in my refrigerator, watching my television.
I wasn't sure what day it was, if this was the soft rain from last
Tuesday, if it was day time or night. Everything
For the first week my husband wrote it off as lack of sleep.
The second week he decided I was struggling from sun deprivation and
brought me orange lifesavers and lemon drops, joked about scurvy.
By the third week, when the rain and the dream still hadn't let up, he
stopped asking questions.
I don't remember much of that month, just the dream really, and the first
few days of rain. After that it all
blurred together. Then somehow we
My husband hates the sun and finds that the ocean gives him headaches. So
he sits by the hotel pool, under an umbrella, either sleeping or reading one of
the two dozen old magazines he's brought from home.
I loved it here until this evening. It
was hot and dry. I felt as though I
was withering up, that my body was evaporating into the thin air.
I looked forward to the dry me, the suntanned and warmed me.
When we first arrived my skin was fleshy and pale.
All my muscles had grown soft. I
had no definition, as if my bones too had become flexible like cartilage.
I was feeling better today, beautiful, my skin lightly browned.
My bones were beginning to surface again, my blood warming up.
Lying on the beach I could see my hip and rib bones. I was still here.
Perhaps I was just hidden under all that soft, white skin.
How long had I been buried beneath all that flesh?
We decided to have dinner at a nice restaurant tonight.
Every night prior to this we had eaten at a little stand on the corner
frequented by the locals, or cooked on the hot plate in our room.
My husband ordered for us in Spanish.
As we sat sipping our sweet Mexican wine, the waiter came to our table,
carrying a plate covered with a silver dome.
"Compliments," he said, "of the chef.
We make a special dish for you. Chef
says he knows how much you love them."
He set the plate down in front of me, and slowly lifted off the dome.
Underneath sat a dozen snails, their fleshy creamy bodies hanging out of
their shells. I screamed, and pushed
away from the table, tipping over my chair.
I watched from outside the restaurant as my husband apologized and paid
the bill. He came out to the street, and without looking up began walking slowly
back toward our hotel. From my darkened corner, with my sunburned back against
the cool tile wall, I noticed that as he passed under a street lamp his white
flesh glowed. I watched as his
stubby shadow got longer and thinner, trailing along slowly behind him.