The Meaning of Rain

"Experimental Rain" by アラン via Flickr

I was with my young grandson, standing in the rain.

I said, “I hate the rain.”


“I had to stand three days in the rain.”

Again he asked, “Why?”

He had grown beyond the age when a boy asks Why? Why? Why? to everything, the age when my answers to his questions were fantastic, when the answer to his question, Why does it rain? was: Angels are weeping. I answered realistically.

“In the war.”

“You had to do guard duty for three days in the rain?”

“Constant rain.”

I felt, suddenly, that this was the first time I was talking with my grandson on a level because he had heard, I didn’t know where, of military guard duty.

I said, “I began to have hallucinations about the rain.”

“What hallucinations?”

“That the weather had some meaning.”

“What meaning?”

I put my hand on his wet hair, water dripping down his smooth forehead, and he looked up at me.

His mother—my daughter whom I did not see on her own—came, and the three of us sheltered from the rain.

Sheltered, I heard the distant thunder and saw the lightening flash, and I wondered at the secret of the weather, and if anyone understood.

Oh, I had seen the dead, the dead lying among the rubble in the rain pelting through a broken dome.

And in the rain I still see their spirits risen, pleading:

“A prayer for the dead, a prayer for the dead, a prayer for the dead.”

Their voices are the weather, which no one understands.

Read David Plante’s introduction and other Essential Stories.

© 2009 by David Plante

David Plante is the author of the novels The Ghost of Henry James, The Family (nominated for The National Book Award), The Woods, The Country, The Foreigner, The Native, The Accident, Annunciation, and The Age of Terror. He has had stories and profiles in The New Yorker, and features in The New York Times, Esquire and Vogue.