September in the Rain
Sally Wakefield and her husband Lloyd sat at the breakfast table and listened to the September rain beat against the kitchen window. “Do you remember your parents saying that when it starts raining in September it seems never to stop? “Sally asked.
Lloyd smiled and said, “Yes, my dad used to say, 'It looks like the rain is set in for the day.' What were you planning to do today?”
“I was going to work in the yard, but that's out. I think I'll do the shopping. Would you like to come along?”
Ordinarily Lloyd would let Sally do the grocery shopping on her own, but today he said, “Thanks, I can't really do anything else with this rain. I'll go and catch up on the scandal magazines.”
“And flirt with May Wheat at the check cashing station,” Sally kidded.
“Well, you have to admit she is a good conversationalist,” Lloyd replied.
“And, let’s face it, she is also beautiful,” Sally laughed.
“Yes, it’s a good thing I’m in my 50s and happily married to you, or I would be interested in May in a connubial sort of way,” Lloyd admitted.
Lloyd and Sally were childhood sweethearts. They were farm people who had married young and had their four children early. Now in their late 50s, with the children grown and moved away, they found themselves settled into a comfortable life. The days and years passed in a quiet, pleasant rhythm that one can find in country living. To describe her life with Lloyd, Sally had a favorite line from an Ann Bradstreet poem: “If ever two were one, then surely we.”
After seeing about the animals and checking on the water gap, Lloyd came to the kitchen door and called, “Are you ready to go?”
When the family dog heard the word “Go,” he ran up to Lloyd, wagging his tail. “You can’t go this time, Duffy,” Lloyd said to the handsome collie. “You have to stay here and guard the house.”
On the way to town, Lloyd, who could not stand to have the car’s radio playing, began to sing
The leaves of brown came tumbling down
Remember? Last September in the rain.
For every word of love I heard you whisper
The raindrops seemed to beat a sad refrain.
Though spring is here in my heart
It’s still September, last September in the rain.
“That’s one of my favorite songs,” Sally said. “The lyrics capture the sadness that I always feel in September. I don’t know why I should feel sad this time of the year, I just do.”
On the way home from the store, Lloyd asked Sally if she remembered that tonight was his lodge night. She admitted that she had forgotten about that, but she told him she would make a nice fire in the fireplace and curl up with the book she had started. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine,” Sally said.
“That sounds nice, almost nice enough to make me want to stay home instead of going out in the rain to attend a meeting,” Lloyd said.
Lloyd told Sally not to wait up for him, gave her a kiss, shook hands with Duffy, and left for an evening of fellowship with his lodge brothers.
Sally closed the sliding doors between the dining and living rooms and built a cheery fire. She thought the living room was much more comfortable and cozy when the doors were closed to the dining room.
Sally picked up the novel and snuggled in her chair to enjoy the fictional world of Ann Rivers Siddons. The fire slowly warmed the room, and Duffy stretched out beside her and quickly fell asleep.
Sally read for about thirty minutes and then began to yawn. The warmth of the room made her drowsy, and her resolve to finish the novel was overcome by her desire for sleep. The book fell to the floor, and Duffy looked up at his mistress to see if anything was wrong. Satisfied that he was not needed, the dog went back to sleep.
Suddenly, Sally Wakefield awakened with a start. She had an eerie feeling that something was very wrong. She had heard a noise. Was it something she dreamed or had someone entered the house? She could not be sure. All she knew was that she was afraid, more afraid than she had ever been in her life. It was not the kind of fear one feels in a scary movie, but one that goes down to the very depths of one’s soul.
Her fear became terror when Duffy began to growl. The aroused dog got up and went to face the sliding doors and began to bark urgently and ferociously. Then Sally had the feeling that whatever was wrong was standing behind those closed doors. Gripped in the saurian teeth of fear, she could not bring herself to take flight; instead, she prayed that whatever or whoever was on the other side would be reluctant to open the doors and face a barking dog. Then she heard a sound of an object crashing to the floor, causing Duffy to bark even louder. Time seemed to stand still as she waited, listening, but she heard no more noise coming from behind the closed doors to the dining room.
Finally, Duffy stopped barking, but he stared at the doors, ever vigilant. Sally was finally able to move. She flung herself behind the chair and called Duffy to her side. The faithful dog obeyed, and Sally hugged him in relief.
She began to consider what she should do. She could not phone for help because her cellphone was on the kitchen counter. The only way an intruder could get to her, other than through the sliding doors, was by way of the front door, which was usually locked. But was it locked tonight? She could not be sure. She realized that hope was not a strategy, but it was all she had, hope that the intruder would not open the closed doors and hope that Lloyd would come home soon. “Oh, Lloyd, I need you. Please come home soon,” she pleaded.
It is a cliché to say that sometimes time drags by, but once in a while there is truth in clichés or they would not be clichés. Indeed, time dragged by, while Sally’s imagination was working at full speed, conjuring up the monsters from movies and the serial killers from the newspapers: The BTK Killer, Ted Bundy, the Zodiac killer, Charles Manson’s Creepy Crawlers, and the Green River Killer paraded before her on the movie screen of her mind.
Finally, after an eternity, Sally saw the headlights of Lloyd’s truck pulling in the driveway.
“Saved! Oh Saved!” she breathed. Then a scary thought occurred to her. Maybe Lloyd would be walking into a trap. What if the intruder was waiting to kill Lloyd? That thought energized Sally and she raced to the front door, opened it, and shouted at Lloyd, “Watch out! There is a prowler in the house. Come to the front door.”
Lloyd was at her side in no time. Sally told him about the intruder. Lloyd picked up the poker from the fireplace and, calling Duffy to his side, opened the closed doors to the dining room. Nothing was there, but he saw that a chair had been overturned, and he could see small traces of mud on the floor. The intruder had entered through the back door, judging from the muddy tracks on the floor. But could he still be lurking somewhere nearby?
“I’m going to search the house,” Lloyd declared.
“No, please don’t. Stay right here and use your cellphone to call the police,” Sally begged. “Let them search the house and the barns.”
That is what Lloyd did. A deputy sheriff responded quickly, and the three of them—Sally would not be left alone—made a thorough search of the premises but found nothing. Whoever or whatever visitor had intruded in the Wakefield home was gone.
But the intruder had done great damage even though the police report indicated that nothing was taken. That report was misleading because something valuable had indeed been taken, never to be recovered. The fearful experience that evening had transformed Sally Wakefield, taking from her the feeling of joy and safety of her home and leaving her with what Ambrose Bierce would call “psychic contamination.” Sally could never again face a closed door without thinking of that rainy September night when she discovered that the universe can be a lonely, terrifying place.