Deluge of Memories

December 3, 2009
By , Goldendale, WA
The monotonous drum of rain on the tin gutter outside Corrine’s bedroom window had been going on for hours. Single sounds of drip, drip clashed together in one great percussion—snare drums of drops against the tin, massive bass drums when the gutters overflowed onto the sloping roof below. Light and airy bells that plopped against the windowpane, clashing cymbals when the river of rainwater fell down through the pipes.

Corrine leaned her forehead against the glass, staring at the sloppy mess below. Just-greening lawn grass stretched, sopping wet, before the house. A naked poplar’s twiggy branches dripped like a runny nose. The stiff plank fence looked tired of doing its endless duty as boundary, and the clothesline beside it sagged wearily.

This was supposed to be a fun vacation, Corrine thought. Fun indeed. She slammed the window locks down with a jolt. The sound of the rain diminished a tiny bit.

Turning, Corrine gave her room a fatigued once-over. Small, stuffy, messy thanks to her younger sister’s pack rat habits. The bed was rumpled from when Emmy had used it to reach a high shelf; the carpet was stained with Emmy’s failed attempts with nail polish; the bookcase was ready to burst at the seems and looked as if it already had. Books, magazines, hardcover book jackets—all shredded happily to bits by Emmy’s puppy “project,” Dexter—lay in a carefree chaos across the floor.

Corrine’s eyes moved to the wall calendar. She had run a pink highlighter around the edges of the squares that marked this week to celebrate spring break. Her first year of high school had left her gasping for air—she’d never been so relieved to reach a spring vacation in her life, especially after algebra finals. But staring at the mess before her, she wondered if she wouldn’t rather be slaving over algebra.

At least then I’d have an excuse not to deal with this disaster.

She stepped gingerly toward the closet door, not sure she wanted to look inside. She was already pretty sure she knew what it looked like in there—Emmy had been using it lately to store clothes she didn’t fit anymore. “I swear I don’t know what’s wrong with just packing them off to Goodwill,” Corrine heard herself muttering. “Not like we have to keep every cursed thing for—” With some effort she pushed the door open, cringing when it crunched over a mountain of floor-ridden items. Sure enough, Emmy’s clothes graced every flat surface as well as most of Corrine’s clothes hangers, and the outgrown articles mingled with dozens of other toys and junk items from Emmy’s room.

Reaching for a hanger that was wrapped in a dress bag, a small smile at last lit on her face. “My prom dress,” she murmured, gliding the zipper down. Lovingly she fingered the soft lavender satin skirt and tulle ruffles that made up the very first prom dress she’d ever owned. Her smile widened. She could envision Caleb Kendrick in all his wonderful athletic glory sauntering up to her, carelessly asking her if she’d come to the prom with him as if they were already steadily dating. . . .

At that moment, Corrine’s bare foot clamped down on something sharp, and she writhed in pain. Why Dad didn’t build a bigger closet in Emmy’s room when he designed this house, I have no . . . She let out a small shriek as a monster cardboard box tumbled off the closet shelf and exploded into a volcano of the books and pages that made up Corrine’s life’s worth of diaries.

Her head beginning to throb, Corrine knelt to reorganize the mess. Pages torn from notebooks and binders were layered in wrinkly, ripped lakes of white. How will I ever find where all these belong?

She picked up a sheet that looked like someone had crumpled it into a spitball a few times and smoothed it out carefully. The date she’d written in the corner was from three years ago. I was only twelve then. “First day of spring break!” it began.

The first thing I did when I got up was run down to play with the lambs. They are so cute! Old granny Ada tried to butt me when I got close, but I showed her a thing or two. Baby Rosita and her brother were racing all over the pasture.

Guess what else! The neighbor’s daughter who’s in high school let me ride her two horses with her! Her name is Candice, and she rode Blitz while I rode Bessie. I want a horse so bad. It must be so fun to be in high school. Everyone takes high schoolers seriously.

Corrine couldn’t hold back a smile. High school hadn’t been quite what she’d expected back then. It seemed like fewer people than ever actually took her seriously.

Had she really written this only three years ago? Her handwriting, her writing style made her seem so much younger than 12. And yet 12 seemed so young itself. She could still remember the feeling of the burning heat of desire that used to course through her veins at the very thought of owning or riding a horse. . . .

Suddenly another thought struck her. When was the last time she’d ridden Dancer? She had worked the whole summer after seventh grade to buy Dancer, a green mutt of a mare that Corrine loved with her whole being. But lately she’d just been so busy . . .

Pounding footfalls on the stairs outside the bedroom door startled her. Before she could react, Emmy burst into the room, her hair dripping in sopping strings down her neck. “Corrine! Come on, you and I should take Dancer out and ride in the rain!”

Corrine stifled a groan. “Emmy, you look like a drowned rat! What’s with the shorts and tank top?”

“It’s a blast, Rea!” the slight ten-year-old begged. “Come on. Please?”

“Please?” The word echoed in Corrine’s mind. “Please, Beka?” . . . The same question I always used to ask Beka. I always wanted to be with Beka. She and Candice used to hang out—ride together. . . .

“Corrine!” Emmy sobered her face into a classic puppy dog pout. “It’s spring break, sissy.”

Corrine rolled her eyes at Emmy’s use of her “baby” name. “Do you have to act like a toddler all the time?” she barked before she could stop herself. “It’s raining!”

“That’s half the fun!” Emmy walked over and leaned in the closet door-jamb. “What are you doing?”

“Just picking up some of this junk,” Corrine snapped. “It would help if you weren’t such a—”

“—Pack rat. I know, you say that at least four times a day.” Emmy scowled. “But Corrine, it’s spring break!”

“Don’t you think I’m aware of that?! Go on and ride Dancer in the rain. I’d prefer to stay dry.”

“But I thought you loved rain—”

“Maybe I did, once!” Corrine slammed a diary closed.


“Yes. Did. D-I-D. I don’t anymore. Besides, I have to clean up this disaster area. Get lost.”

Emmy bit her lip in silence for a moment. Then she spoke tersely: “You really don’t want to come outside? Or you just think you have to clean this up?”

“I don’t want to come outside.”

“Corrine, I’ll clean up in here if you want to go ride Dancer,” Emmy persisted.

Corrine rolled her eyes. “You? To you cleaning means throwing everything together in a pile the shape of Mt. St. Helens—complete with eruption! Just go ahead and go . . . go play,” she said impatiently. Her tongue caught ever so briefly on the word “play,” as if she were unaccustomed to saying it.

“Whatever,” Emmy resigned. “Your funeral.”

Corrine waited until she heard Emmy’s subdued footfalls fade away and picked up another bit from one of her old diaries.

It rained today! I love rain. Beka and I rode Candice’s horse in the rain bareback. That was so much fun! Then I took Emmy out and we pretended we were poor peasants in Robin Hood and had to pay taxes for to Prince John. I put all my dimes in a sock and pretended to be the sheriff collecting the taxes for awhile when Emmy was being Maid Marion. . . .

Corrine pushed the page away and stood up. Suddenly the closet seemed lonely.

She went back to the window where the percussion of raindrops drummed on. Emmy was sitting on Dancer’s soaked chestnut back silently, letting the chill of the rain seep to her very bones.

Emmy and I used to have fun together. Like Beka and I did. A wistful smile tugged at the corners of Corrine’s mouth.

Suddenly she kicked off her shoes and pulled the clip from her meticulously swept back hair. In last summer’s cutoff shorts and a sleeveless shirt, she ran across the spongy lawn toward Dancer’s paddock.

“Hey, Em,” she called with a flash of a smile, “want to jog her down the driveway?”

An hour later, soaked to the skin and satisfied, Corrine and Emmy returned to the house together and Corrine made her special hot chocolate recipe. Maybe childhood wasn’t quite so childish after all.

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