Another Rain

It never rains in Southern California?

Not true.

Jesse fought with his umbrella against the wind and rain. He jumped over a flooded gutter as he dashed toward the bus stop.

His shoes were wet, but he knew they would dry a little on the bus. And he did love the smell of rain.

Jesse noticed someone in a poncho walking down the other side of the boulevard and old memories flashed to mind.

Twenty years ago, finally out of school and in the great big world on his own, Jesse had considered hiking the Appalachian Trail. The entire trail: over two thousand miles from Georgia to Maine. He’d read several books. He’d made an exciting decision. He’d bought and organized hiking gear while refining ever more detailed plans. He had trained for weeks on neighborhood hills with a forty pound backpack. He’d booked a flight.

Hiking those first spring days in Georgia and North Carolina had been heaven. Deep green forests and that chill, sweet-smelling mountain air.

Two weeks later, as he neared the Great Smoky Mountains, the rain began.

The first rainy night he camped in mud and discovered his tent wasn’t watertight. He woke with his sleeping bag in a pool of water.

In a downpour the next day his boots turned sloshy. The rain wouldn’t end. The contents of his backpack, including every stitch of clothing, became helplessly soaked.

As he set up his tent for another night he began to shiver violently. He’d read about hypothermia and wondered what might happen. He was alone. He lay in his sleeping bag half the night before he became warm. Why am I doing this? he began to wonder.

For three straight days and nights it rained. Then, in the Great Smoky Mountains, it began to snow.

Freezing, slipping, slimy with mud, streaming with sweat, shivering when not hiking up and down the steep endless mountain ridges, exhausted, lonely, feet blistered, every bone and muscle painful, Jesse succombed to his life’s worst depression. Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this?

I don’t need this, he finally decided.

After conquering over two hundred miles of trail, Jesse had given up. Dejected, holding back tears, he’d hitched a ride on the highway at Newfound Gap, rode into the nearest town, and fled to sunny Southern California, the place he called home, where it never rained.

Jesse folded his wet umbrella as he stepped into the bus stop shelter. A tree outside the glass shelter had turned bright green. The rain smelled very good.

A man inside the shelter was gazing at passing cars. Suddenly the man turned to speak. “They told me when I moved here it wouldn’t rain. I bought these shoes yesterday and now they’re ruined. God, I hate it here.

“It’s really that bad?” Jesse asked.

The man glared at him miserably.