Rain was pouring down. What a relief! It had been another long, hot summer. Now, finally, the air was cool and the ground could get some reviving moisture. Before this rain, cracks had opened beneath our feet. Crossing one, an inch or so wide, I glanced down, with the sun directly overhead, and saw the light penetrate several feet down. I could see my shadow move deep within the earth. That was a strange sensation. The solid earth was no longer solid. It was broken.

The dry, desiccated soil separated in many places in the area. As the ground dried and separated, the drying sections pulled pipes apart. Leaks had appeared in many places that had never had problems before. The rock foundation of my grandparent’s house, standing firm from years before I was born, was pulled apart creating cracks between the stones. What will this rain do? The basement had always been dry before, how could it stay dry now? Too much rain can cause as many problems as too little rain, but they’re very different problems.

When water gets into some places, it might not leave. Either there is no drain or stuff gets saturated and soaked and cannot dry before rot sets in. Both are disasters.

My grandparent’s basement was full of “stuff.” When I was a small child they had helped friends empty their house in town to move out of state, and they never came back for the last of it. At one time, Granma had made a corner of the basement into a center for canning produce from the garden. It was cooler working in the basement than in the hot kitchen upstairs. That area was now useless because of the boxes of their friend’s stuff.

Another corner had a large table and, at the back of it, stacks of empty egg cartons to the ceiling from earlier decades when she had sold eggs from her chickens. By the time I was born, this had dwindled down to only the occasional friend stopping in, but the setup remained usable. Since it was the furthest from the basement door, it remained the most empty part of the basement. It was also close to the wood-burning furnace, so it was a warm area to work in during the winter.

The window beside the egg table was the one Granpa used to throw in wood to feed the furnace. He had to aim the wood so as to miss the table – and the eggs! But that wasn’t really much of a problem: when the house was coldest, and needed the wood for heat, the chickens were laying the least eggs. In fact, they kept the least number of chickens over the winter because of that. Chickens don’t lay so many eggs in cold weather. They only kept enough chickens during the winter for enough eggs for their own use – and that included chicken for Sunday dinner!

Also, near the furnace was the winter bed. In the winter times, this is where they slept, not upstairs. After their children had grown and left home, Granma and Granpa would close off the upstairs rooms and not even try to heat them. There were no vents from the furnace to the upstairs, so this simply meant keeping the door at the foot of the stairs closed. They also closed off the dining room by shutting that vent and the doors. The less rooms they had to heat, the less wood they burned and the less Granpa had to cut and bring in. He already had a lot to do. Winter was naturally a cold time, and the house was naturally cold too. When you needed to really get warm, you would go stand beside the heat vent. Hot air was always rising up. And you wore a sweater – or two!

I now went to their house to see what kind of water damage they were having to deal with.

Granma and Granpa were both in the basement moving things around. Water was coursing along the floor from the new cracks in the wall. Fortunately, the cement floor had been sloped to the drain in the corner where they put the washing machine, so Granma could easily drain the washer and rinse tubs, and was flowing out. That, at least, was good.

“Duane,” Granma said when I arrived and began helping. “I didn’t even need to ask. You’re amazing and wonderful.”

One thought on “Rain Surprise by Duane L. Herrmann

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