It’s raining. There’s a man pacing up and down outside my shop. His phone is on speaker. I can hear the phone speaking back to him, a thin stream of information, like a pilot giving air directions, and none of it making sense to anyone else.
‘The things they get away with down there is ridiculous.’
The phone answers what sounds like a long list of facts.
‘You can times that by five, mate. The problem is… the problem is… what they don’t realize is…’
The phone speaks back. Agreeing.
The man is pacing, agitated, up and down. It is still raining.
‘I contracted it all out though. It’s such a hassle. Turns out that – ‘
The phone interrupts.
‘Yes, yes, yes, yes…is it though?’
The phone delivers a short lecture, this time without interruption.
‘All right buddy, better let you go.’ The conversation ends. The man, wearing an orange safety vest, muddy boots, and a beanie, picks up his coffee from my windowsill and strides away.
It’s quiet again. It’s dark and raining, not right for September. There are long heavy trucks outside, slow and creaking and hissing. But now they have all stopped. This is unusual, and I look out. There’s an orange indicator going somewhere out of my sight, the rain and the hot orange light flicker and flacker all over the front of the shop. K and S Freighters are stuck out there, massive and shining, then a huge carrier with cows looking out at the rain, a soft wall of eyes, then a cement mixer with its wet belly turning slowly, then a bus.
Someone walks past whistling, a bright light idea uninterested in rain.
When the sun comes out, it is warm, its light has gold edges that are told in the puddles, the puddles read it swiftly in gold lines with metal stops. The puddles are flints. People look down, then up and shade their eyes.
Everyone becomes a jogger, simply everyone. They have to cross the road. The sun has dropped abruptly, rain again. I stand at the window and look out. People run rustily, puffing dramatically, eyes screwed up, legs lifted high to avoid the spray, laughing because there is so much water, and because we need it. My town, thirty minutes away and always dry, lay on its back this morning drinking heavily, weighed down by liquid, the trees hanging sodden, their roots and toes alive with water and digging for more.
Customers come wheezing in, happy and unbothered, ‘Do you have book two of Tim Severin’s Viking stuff?’
The trucks drag nets of spray behind them. A child in a car parked just outside the door has his arm out of the window catching the drops. He is on his knees. He puts his head out. A drench catches him, and he shakes and shakes, alive with nourishment. Somebody inside the car speaks, and he abruptly withdraws.
Another child, on the footpath, is being a duck. I am startled because his duck sound is so real, so loud and so close.
‘He’s being a duck, Grandpa.’
There’s a whole family out there. They’ve been to the bakery and are noisy with paper bags and loaves of bread and coffee.
‘Show Grandpa how you’re being a duck.’
The child is wearing soft thick clothing, red and dark blue, and tiny stout boots protect his webbed feet, and he quacks and quaeks and hoots.’
‘Hey, come here duck’, says Grandpa.
But he does not want to get into the car.
Grandpa, who drops to help the youngster, gets a boot in the side, and the son, the father, takes over, stern. ‘Get in. Now. Get in. Stop it.’
Now the ducky is in, fitted into a duckling seat, the rain runs down the windows and I can see him making duck hands to himself, and there are little arrows of sun smoking down and making a sheen of warm green emeralds on the top of their lolly green car, and then another truck goes speeding past sending us all us a new version of the same water.