The following piece was presented at the Jersey City Writers’ monthly genre event–Worlds of Ruin: A Literary Celebration of Apocalyptic Science Fiction. Please enjoy.
I told you. Don’t go out into the rain. Amuse yourself inside. And shush, I’m talking.
What were you were saying, Lil?
No, that was my little girl. She’s restless, but it’s raining, and we don’t want her outside.
Yes, the birds can’t fly, of course I understand. We’ve seen the reports on TV. And you’re not to go on the beach.
How long before they hope to clean it up? I’ve heard it will never be the same.
Don’t talk to me about property values. You know, it’s more serious than that. You’re lucky it’s only the oil by you. I told you, up here, we can’t leave the house when it rains. Seems to rain all the time now, too. Wonder if it’s connected?
No, I haven’t been working. It doesn’t seem worth it. I listen to the radio most of the time. Can’t stop; just wanna hear more. It amazes me they still play commercials. These hucksters are so set in their ways. They’ll keep trying to sell you, all the way to the grave. I can’t understand that. I think who cares anymore? I’m not going to live in a fool’s paradise. I want to acknowledge the truth. When a movie comes on, I can’t watch it. Can’t concentrate. My little girl sits there entranced by all these phony heroes dodging bullets, never getting shot, and then saving the world at the end. Ridiculous. I think how am I to write a story that’s not absurd? I can’t do it.
My wife spends her time cleaning the house. Cleaning things she cleaned only an hour before. She sews a lot, cooks what she can. Me, I have nothing to putter around with.
No, the little one doesn’t understand. She asks questions because you can’t avoid it from what she sees on TV, but we don’t tell her much. She doesn’t understand the rain is poison. Still wants to run outside and get wet. So what do you do with yourself?
That’s constructive. Do they grow?
What about the water? Is it clean?
You wouldn’t eat them, would you?
Kind of silly then, isn’t it?
Well, something for you to do at least. That reminds me. You know my mother? We’ve taken her away from the seniors’ home because you can’t trust them any longer. They leave the old people alone too much. They’re understaffed. It’s amazing some still come in.
We took the old lady out to dinner.
Yes, there’s restaurants open. I’m telling you, it’s crazy.
Anyway I told the old girl to put on her coat, and she took out this ratty thing she wears around the house when it’s cold. I said, ‘Mom, wear your nice coat. We’re going out.’ She says, ‘Oh no, that’s too good. I want to save that.’ Hysterical, isn’t it? Eighty-three, and still saving for a rainy day. I mean a non-rainy day.
I know what you mean; yes, people have not given up. That’s good. It’s just that I don’t see how I can be amusing to anyone right now. I can’t believe they’re still publishing. And why should I? I can no longer read my own words. So I don’t. I’m just listening to the news, waiting.
Knowing what’s coming has really gotten to me.
I am going on, Lily, but not like before.
Don’t call me defeatist. Call me enlightened. The truth has always been the most important thing. For me at least. I don’t think I’ll ever write another word again. I don’t think I’ll ever read another piece of fiction in my life. That’s the way it is.
Okay, Lil. I’m sorry. Lily. This wasn’t supposed to—
I’m sorry. Okay?
Yes, it has been good talking to you. I was hoping we could get through one more time. I’m happy we did. Let’s hope we can do it again. Take care of yourself, huh? Good-bye, doll. For what it’s worth, I love you.
Daddy, can I go out now?
No, sweetie. You see it’s still raining.
I have my raincoat.
It doesn’t matter, honey. It’s not about that. I’ve told you already. Try to understand. The rain is not very good anymore.
Now, it’s time for our vitamins. Here they are, see?
Okay, love. Good girl. And this one too, the iodine. This one’s very important for you, baby. All gone? That a girl.
Daddy, I’m bored.
There’s nothing on, only those silly reports about the ‘radiack’ thing.
Yes. I can see how that can bore you. Where’s your mother? Sewing again? Cleaning? Well, don’t bother her. She likes to keep busy.
Tell me a story.