Kneeling


by Martha

The taste
of rain
--why kneel?
Jack Kerouac

They didn't make it home before the rain.

Blair swore in frustration, slammed his hand on the dashboard hard enough to hurt, and craned his head around to stare glumly out the back window at the half-dozen grocery bags bungee-corded upright in the bed of Jim's truck. "Goddammit, Jim, I told you we should have waited."

Jim glanced up in the rear view mirror. The brown paper bags were darkening and beginning to wilt under the impact of the rain drops. "I think I'm the one who told you we ought to hold off until this afternoon," he replied mildly.

"Yeah, great. Like I could have gotten any cooking done at all if we waited that late to do the shopping. Should've taken my car and gone by myself. Crap."

Sandburg was clearly in a mood to be unreasonable, so Jim didn't point out that he'd made that suggestion as well and been shot down just as decisively. Blair was muttering darkly about the general uselessness of a sentinel who couldn't even predict a simple rain shower, but Jim found himself intoxicated by the smell of the rain hitting the streets. A sweet, hot, heady scent, reminding him suddenly of childhood. He remembered an afternoon thunderstorm, a crack of thunder that made Stevie giggle nervously, and then the deluge that washed away their chalk drawings on the sidewalk and soaked them both to the skin as they ran for home.

"Pull up in front of the building," Sandburg demanded irritably. "I'll unload the bags and then you can go park. Like there's any point to it now."

Jim did as he was told. "Most stuff, it won't matter if gets wet."

Sandburg shot him a black look before swinging himself out of the truck. "Like the flour. And the sugar. Right, Jim." He slammed the door too hard and ran around to the back of the truck. Jim watched him in the rear view mirror, wondering if he ought to put the emergency brake on and get out and help, but Blair was so determinedly martyring himself he didn't think the offer would be appreciated.

Sandburg had one bag clutched to his chest already and was awkwardly trying to scoop up a second. The rain wasn't hard enough to plaster his hair to his scalp -- instead his curls were tangling wildly in the moisture, tiny droplets clinging to his locks, misting his glasses, trembling from the point of his clenched jaw. He stepped away from the back of the truck, and the second bag slid from his grasp and hit the street with a splat.

The flour had been in that bag. And the eggs. Jim could smell them both sharply as the eggs broke and the flour bag split.

By the time he got around to the back of the truck, Sandburg's little dance of rage was over and he was staring at the mess in frustrated defeat. "I don't believe this," he told Jim furiously. "I do not fucking believe this." As though nothing of this morning's fiasco could possibly have been predicted by any reasonable human being. He glared at Jim, daring him to say a single word. His eyes were dark with anger and he smelled of the rain in his hair and soaking his t-shirt and his jeans.

Jim didn't say a thing. He tangled his hand in Blair's wet hair, saw his eyes widen myopically behind his lenses for a moment before pulling him close enough to lick the rain from Blair's lips. When he raised his head again Blair's eyes were closed. He licked his own lips, as though chasing the shadow of Jim's tongue, and when he finally looked up at Jim, he was no longer angry. He didn't even look surprised.

"Oh," he said in a matter-of-fact sort of way. "OK." And he put his arms around Jim's neck, stretched up on tiptoe and pressed his mouth to Jim's as the rain ran down their faces and thunder rumbled in the distance, somewhere miles and miles away.

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June, 2003

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