Spring, 2003
24-Hour Short Story Contest
1st Place Winner!



She felt silly as the man with the odd accent looked down, making benign statements to her palm. Why had she allowed her sister to drag her to this psychic's convention?

She couldn't help but roll her eyes as he completed the reading with a dramatic wave of his arms. However, his final words shocked her...

What Marina's Mother Knows about Rain
by Mary Ellen Sanger, Oaxaca, Mexico

Marina's mother said nobody should fall in love in the dry season. In the dry season the naked arms of trees could grab a love-struck girl by the braid and yank her down, make trouble. Marina's mother said you could see too much in the dry season.

Her footsteps sounded like hammer on stone. It had been six months since the last rain. The dirt from the path made dust devils that swirled in the air and made Marina cough. The old road was worn and hard. Marina felt worn and hard though she was only nineteen. Walking to work she imagined the sound of soft raindrops on the blue-flowered umbrella that gave her shade from the sun.

Marina's mother said that the dry season was long so that people would appreciate green. In places where it rains year round, people don't notice the beauty of a casaguate leaf. An ugly girl has a chance after six months of drought. And a beautiful girl is still beautiful, though the whole lot have dust between their toes.

Old man Fidel cackled "Hormiguita" as Marina passed with her head down. Everyone called Marina "little ant" because she had a waist pinched small and full hips. Marina pictured the little prints that would be left in the dust by the first drops of rain. She smiled and felt the blood run into her cheeks.

Marina's mother said that the cicadas shout in the dry season to call for rain. Their rattling buzz overcomes the heat of the days. In the dry season you can feel those insects in your hair, under your fingernails, crawling into your ears. Listen. Ca-a-a-a-a-a-a-re-ful, ful ful.

It was uphill to the hacienda, and Marina walked slowly. Footsteps like hammer on stone, the worn and hard little ant crawled to the place where she spent her days cleaning floors and tossing scraps into a wicker basket outside the kitchen door. She heard the insects in the air. She stayed far from the spindly branches in the garden that could grab her thoughts and twist them into trouble. She imagined the rich smell released by earth, wet for the first time in six months.

Marina's mother said the old brujo witch would find a suitable husband for her daughter. He could read the marks left by a handful of dust in a girl's sweaty palm. He was very busy in April before the rains. It would soon be time. The innocent green of new leaves would soon appear and even ugly girls would be ready.

The vivid bougainvillea blooms never minded the drought. They preferred it. Marina swept the only color from the brick patio. The color of blood, of valentine hearts, of late sunsets - they reminded Marina that not everything dies in the dry season.

Marina's mother said that young people believed in magic and love and all manner of incredible things, but better to rely on something solid like the old witch. He could always pick a husband, though he made no promises on their staying forever. Marina's mother said that men were made of sweet brown piloncillo sugar. They were prone to disappear if they got wet or exposed to the sun. That covered inclemencies year-round it seemed.

The patio parrot squeaked "I love you!" and flapped his leafy green wings. Marina closed the pantry where she stored his sunflower seeds. "Let's go!" he wheezed and clicked like rain on a tile roof, while Marina hurried her step to the front gate. She was going to see the brujo that evening. She was confident that the dust left in her palms would confirm her hopes. She had been dreaming of rain.

Marina's mother brought a bottle of mezcal to the old brujo. She sat by a low table that held one crooked candle and a bowl of smoking copal incense. She had told the old man a week ago that her daughter was stuck on a no-good bit of piloncillo sugar that would melt away on her tongue before she even tasted him. "Tell her he is a black cloud. Tell her he is a storm."

The old man began to whisper and neither Marina nor her mother could hear him clearly. Maybe he was speaking in the words of his grandfather, maybe he was talking backwards. He traced the longest line on Marina's palm with a disjointed forefinger and drew his old lips close to her ear. She was shocked by the first words she understood, but she didn't let on. She just nodded.

Marina's mother never heard. The old brujo said it was between him and the girl. Even though Marina's mother brought the mezcal.

The next morning, the blue-flowered umbrella was wet with the first fat drops of the season. The sound of Marina's footsteps was muffled by a dampened earth that clung to her feet. She thought she could hear the green casaguate leaves straining against the dry bark that kept them captive for six months.

"It will rain tomorrow" he had said. "It will most certainly rain."

What Mary Ellen won:

$300 Cash Prize
Publication of winning story on the WritersWeekly.com website
1 - Freelance Income Kit Includes:
-- 1-year subscription to the Write Markets Report
-- How to Write, Publish and $ell Ebooks
-- How to Publish a Profitable Emag
-- How to Be a Syndicated Newspaper Columnist Special (includes the book; database of 6000+ newspapers; and database of 100+ syndicates)


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