Life, Through a Film of Palmolive

Rain pours down on the open-air garden, and on Sid.

There are trees all around, and grass, and flowers. Most won’t survive the rain. There’s a set of broken old stone walls surrounding the garden. Odds are, they’ll make it through. Usually they do.

They’re nice and all, but they’re not Sid.

“It’s stupid,” opines Iphigenia.

Emily takes the candy cane she’s sucking on out of her mouth.

“Stupid?” says Emily.

“Canonically so,” says Iphigenia. “c.f. ‘coming in out of the rain, too stupid to be.'”

“Hm,” agrees Emily.

They’re standing under convenient eaves that project out from the tower that is their home.

“It would be a shame,” Emily concedes, “if he caught his death of rain.”

“It would be a harsh, cruel world.”

Emily sucks for a moment on the curved end of the candy cane. Then she says, “Is that really contingent on Sid?”

Iphigenia stares at her for a moment, then shakes her head and ignores her.

“Sid!” shouts Iphigenia.

The rain is little drops of water at first, and a sprinkling of water can’t hurt anyone. But soon there’s a bit of glowing dust mixed in too.

Sid is walking around in the garden. He’s got his left arm out like his whole body is listening and his right hand is sheltering his eyes. He’s looking up at the sky.

Now there’s cherries falling. It’s good that there are cherries falling, because not all of them will burst on impact—some will be good for breakfast in the morning, unless an antelope or dowry chest or whatnot lands on them first.

Glowing coals drift down from the sky.

“He’s not paying attention to us,” concludes Emily.

Iphigenia is brave. She darts out into the rain of water, glitter, cherries, and coals. She grabs Sid’s sleeve. She tugs.

“Hey!” she says. “Doofus!”

Sid looks down at her.

“You’ll get hurt,” she says.

Sid thinks this over. Then he takes Iphigenia’s arm and, pulling her with him, steps out of the way of a sharp-pointed anchor that falls from the sky.

“Maybe,” he concedes.

He pulls her back under the shade of an orange tree. He looks up at the sky.

“You shouldn’t be out here,” he says.

“It would be a harsh, cruel world,” Iphigenia explains, “if you got hit by a meteor and fell down, splat.”

“I’m not out here to be hit by a meteor,” Sid avers.

“Events do not always happen as you intend!”

Sid peers out at the sky. He sighs.

“You’re right,” he says. “Anchors are a bad sign. Let’s make a dash for the eaves.”

They stall a few seconds, waiting for a moment in which relatively few large objects are falling from the sky.

“You shouldn’t need me to run out here after you,” says Iphigenia. “You should be able to worry about these things on your own.”

“I do worry,” says Sid.

“You worry?”

“Unreasonably and acutely,” says Sid. “A meteor strike could render me unable to fulfill my responsibilities and accomplish the long list of things that lay ahead of me.”

“Oh,” says Iphigenia, somewhat deflated, since Sid has just adequately summarized the appropriate reasons for worry.

“But sometimes when it rains, I look up and I see a chicken-snake in the sky,” Sid says. His voice is distant and reverent. “Huge and glorious, with a great long feathered tail. And—”

His voice peaks upwards violently into panic.

“PIANO!”

Sid and Iphigenia dive for cover. The piano tears through the branches of the orange tree and hits the earth where they’d stood with a great rattling of keys.

Sid is sprawled face-first in a mud puddle.

Cherries bounce off of Sid.

Iphigenia helps him up. Their previous shelter proven unsound, they stumble straight towards the eaves.

“It is raining harder than usual,” Sid admits, with a distant disappointment.

They reach the eaves. They slump against the wall next to Emily. They watch the storm.

“Hey, can you see your chicken-snake from here?” Iphigenia asks.

“Maybe,” says Sid. “If it flies low.”

Emily takes the candy cane out of her mouth. She watches the sky. After a long moment, she points with the candy cane’s end. “There,” she says.

They can just barely see it, in the distance. It is huge. It is grand. It is eddying through the sky above the storm.

A certain tension falls from Sid. He stares out at it, rapt.

“Hey,” says Emily.

“Hey?” Sid says.

“Why do you want to see a flying chicken-snake?” Emily says.

“It makes me feel small,” says Sid.

The shape is moving away into the distance. Sid, helplessly, takes a few steps out from the eaves to see it better. Rain and glitter drift into his hair.

“Sid,” says Iphigenia, warningly.

But the rain is fading. There are no more anchors. There are no more pianos.

“I guess it’s safe,” Iphigenia sighs.

Iphigenia has spoken too soon.

A meteor tears down from Heaven like some angry angel’s shotput. It strikes Sid in the forehead. It is a very small meteor: a dazing meteor and not a murderous one. Even so, Sid still staggers, stumbles, and falls sideways under the eaves. Water, glitter, and cherries drip in a slow and steady stream onto his face.

“Huh,” he says, after a moment.

Emily pokes at Sid with her foot. “Harsh, cruel world?” she asks.

“Where?” says Sid, confused.

Proposes Iphigenia, “You’re soaking in it!”

2 thoughts on “Life, Through a Film of Palmolive

  1. This might just become my “why you should read Hitherby” stock example. The garden-path from the flowers not surviving the rain, through catching your death, the glowing dust, and suddenly “an antelope or dowry chest or whatnot”… and then you read back and kick yourself for not noticing that the stone walls only “usually” make it through.

    And Sid’s “It makes me feel small” is just perfect.

    (Feedback: recent stuff has been pretty heavy — I’ve been catching up so reading fairly intensively, it’s nice to get back to some more lighthearted legends.)

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