Authors: Ray Bradbury
THE DAY IT RAINED FOREVER
An imprint of HarperCollins
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First published in Great Britain by Rupert Hart-Davis 1959
Published in Penguin Books 1963
Copyright Â© Ray Bradbury 1959
Cover design by Mike Topping.
Cover layout design Â© HarperCollinsPublishers 2014
Cover photographs Â© Shutterstock.com
Ray Bradbury asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
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Ebook Edition Â© JULY 2014 ISBN: 9780007539819
IN MEMORY OF
THE TERRIBLE SKIRMISH
THE TEMPORARY LOSS
BUT OUR INEVITABLE VICTORY
AT THE MIRABELLE
hotel stood like a hollowed dry bone under the very centre of the desert sky where the sun burned the roof all day. All night, the memory of the sun stirred in every room like the ghost of an old forest fire. Long after dusk, since light meant heat, the hotel lights stayed off. The inhabitants of the hotel preferred to feel their way blind through the halls in their never-ending search for cool air.
This one particular evening Mr Terle, the proprietor, and his only boarders, Mr Smith and Mr Fremley, who looked and smelled like two ancient rags of cured tobacco, stayed late on the long veranda. In their creaking glockenspiel rockers, they gasped back and forth in the dark, trying to rock up a wind.
âMr TerleÂ â¦? Wouldn't it be
niceÂ â¦ some dayÂ â¦ if you could buyÂ â¦ air conditioningÂ â¦?'
Mr Terle coasted a while, eyes shut.
âGot no money for such things, Mr Smith.'
The two old boarders flushed; they hadn't paid a bill now in twenty-one years.
Much later, Mr Fremley sighed a grievous sigh. âWhy, why don't we all just quit, pack up, get outa here, move to a decent city? Stop this swelterin' and fryin' and sweatin'.'
âWho'd buy a dead hotel in a ghost town?' said Mr Terle, quietly. âNo. No, we'll just set here and wait, wait for that great day, January 29th.'
Slowly, all three men stopped rocking.
The one day in all the year when it really let go and rained.
âWon't wait long.' Mr Smith tilted his gold railroad watch like the warm summer moon in his palm. âTwo hours and nine minutes from now it'll be January 29th. But I don't see nary a cloud in ten thousand miles.'
âIt's rained every January 29th since I was born!' Mr Terle stopped, surprised at his own loud voice. âIf it's a day late this year, I won't pull God's shirt-tail.'
Mr Fremley swallowed hard and looked from east to west across the desert towards the hills. âI wonderÂ â¦ will there ever be a gold rush hereabouts again?'
âNo gold,' said Mr Smith. âAnd what's more, I'll make you a bet â no rain. No rain tomorrow or the day after the day after tomorrow. No rain all the rest of this year.'
The three old men sat staring at the big sun-yellowed moon that burned a hole in the high stillness.
After a long while, painfully, they began to rock again.
The first hot morning breezes curled the calendar pages like a dried snakeskin against the flaking hotel front.
The three men, thumbing their braces up over their hat-rack shoulders, came barefoot downstairs to blink out at that idiot sky.
âJanuary 29thÂ â¦'
âNot a drop of mercy there.'
not.' Mr Fremley turned and went away.
It took him five minutes to find his way up through the delirious hallways to his hot, freshly baked bed.
At noon, Mr Terle peered in.
âMr FremleyÂ â¦?'
âDamn desert cactus, that's us!' gasped Mr Fremley, lying there, his face looking as if at any moment it might fall away in a blazing dust on the raw plank floor. âBut even the best damn cactus got to have just a sip of water before it goes back to another year of the same damn furnace. I tell you I won't move again, I'll lie here an' die if I don't hear more than birds pattin' around up on that roof!'
âKeep your prayers simple and your umbrella handy,' said Mr Terle, and tiptoed away.
At dusk, on the hollow roof a faint pattering sounded.
Mr Fremley's voice sang out mournfully, from his bed.
âMr Terle, that ain't rain! That's you with the garden hose sprinklin' well-water on the roof! Thanks for tryin', but cut it out, now.'
The pattering sound stopped. There was a sigh from the yard below.
Coming around the side of the hotel a moment later, Air Terle saw the calendar fly out and down in the dust.
âDamn January 29th!' cried a voice. âTwelve more months! Have to wait twelve more months, now!'
Mr Smith was standing there in the doorway. He stepped inside and brought out two dilapidated suitcases and thumped them on the porch.
âMr Smith!' cried Mr Terle. âYou can't leave after thirty years!'
âThey say it rains twenty days a month in Ireland,' said Mr Smith. âI'll get a job there and run around with my hat off and my mouth open.'
âYou can't go!' Mr Terle tried frantically to think of something; he snapped his fingers. âYou owe me nine thousand dollars rent!'
Mr Smith recoiled; his eyes got a look of tender and unexpected hurt in them.
âI'm sorry.' Mr Terle looked away. âI didn't mean that. Look now â you just head for Seattle. Pours two inches a week there. Pay me when you can, or never. But do me a favour: wait till midnight. It's cooler then, anyhow. Get you a good night's walk towards the city.'
âNothin'll happen between now and midnight.'
âYou got to have faith. When everything else is gone, you got to believe a thing'll happen. Just stand here, with me, you don't have to sit, just stand here and think of rain. That's the last thing I'll ever ask of you.'
On the desert, sudden little whirlwinds of dust twisted up, sifted down. Mr Smith's eye scanned the sunset horizon.
âWhat do I think? Rain, oh you rain, come along here? Stuff like that?'
âAnything. Anything at all!'
Mr Smith stood for a long time between his two mangy suitcases and did not move. Five, six minutes ticked by. There was no sound, save the two men's breathing in the dusk.
Then at last, very firmly, Mr Smith stooped to grasp the luggage handles.
Just then, Mr Terle blinked. He leaned forward, cupping his hand to his ear.
Mr Smith froze, his hands still on the luggage.
From away among the hills, a murmur, a soft and tremulous rumble.
âStorm coming!' hissed Mr Terle.
The sound grew louder; a kind of whitish cloud rose up from the hills.
Mr Smith stood tall on tiptoe.
Upstairs, Mr Fremley sat up like Lazarus.
Mr Terle's eyes grew wider and yet wider to take hold of what was coming. He held to the porch rail like the captain of a long-becalmed vessel feeling the first stir of some tropic breeze that smelled of lime and the ice-cool white meat of coconut. The smallest wind stroked over his aching nostrils as over the flues of a white-hot chimney.
âThere!' cried Mr Terle. âThere!'
And over the last hill, shaking out feathers of fiery dust, came the cloud, the thunder, the racketing storm.
Over the hill, the first car to pass in twenty days flung itself down the valley with a shriek, a thud, and a wail.
Mr Terle did not dare to look at Mr Smith.
Mr Smith looked up, thinking of Mr Fremley in his room.
Mr Fremley, at the window, looked down and saw the car expire and die in front of the hotel.
For the sound that the car made was curiously final. It had come a very long way on blazing sulphur roads, across salt flats abandoned ten million years ago by the shingling-off of waters. Now, with wire-ravellings like cannibal hair sprung up from seams, with a great eyelid of canvas top thrown back and melted to spearmint gum over rear seat, the auto, a Kissel car, vintage 1924, gave a final shuddering as if to expel its ghost upon the air.
The old woman in the front seat of the car waited patiently, looking in at the three men and the hotel as if to say, Forgive me, my friend is ill; I've known him a long while, and now I must see him through his final hour. So she just sat in the car waiting for the faint convulsions to cease and for the great relaxation of all the bones which signifies that the final process is over. She must have sat a full half-minute longer listening to her car, and there was something so peaceful about her that Mr Terle and Mr Smith leaned slowly towards her. At last she looked at them with a grave smile and raised her hand.
Mr Fremley was surprised to see his hand go out the window above, waving back to her.
On the porch, Mr Smith murmured, âStrange. It's not a storm. And I'm not disappointed. How come?'
But Mr Terle was down the path and to the car.
âWe thought you wereÂ â¦ that isÂ â¦' He trailed off. âTerle's my name, Joe Terle.'
She took his hand and looked at him with absolutely clear and unclouded light-blue eyes like water that has melted from snow a thousand miles off and come a long way, purified by wind and sun.
âMiss Blanche Hillgood,' she said, quietly. âGraduate of the Grinnell College, unmarried teacher of music, thirty years high-school glee club and student orchestra conductor, Green City, Iowa, twenty years private teacher of piano, harp, and voice, one month retired and living on a pension and now, taking my roots with me, on my way to California.'