The Book of Rain by Thomas Wharton - Excerpt

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The Book of Rain

a novel by Thomas Wharton


HE WAKES FROM AN Ativan-induced doze to the roar of the plane. The last of the daylight fading on the edge of the world. The window shows him dark miles of forest, parted now and then by the pale slash of a road, a few early yard lights. They must be getting close.

Below him is somewhere he lived, once. It doesn’t feel that way. His adult life has taken place so far from here and he’d had no plans to ever return. Then came the call from his mother, about Amery.

I told her it wasn’t her job to make things right, she’d said over the phone.

He’d tried to be reassuring. Or maybe he just didn’t want to be bothered.

I’m sure she’s fine, Mom. She probably got busy and just forgot to check in.

No. She never forgets, Alex. We talk every weekend. I insisted and she never misses it. Even if she won’t tell me what she’s doing, or how she’s doing, she always calls. You’re sure you haven’t heard from her?

I’d remember. I don’t think we should jump to conclusions. Maybe she didn’t pay her phone bill. We both know she has no money.

I’m not jumping to conclusions. Something’s happened to your sister.

The seatbelt sign comes on. The pilot announces they’ll be landing at the airport in Pine Ridge in fifteen minutes. The older woman sitting next to Alex puts away her word puzzle book and clasps her hands together in her lap, her thumbs turning over and over each other like some kind of self-propelled mechanism. They haven’t spoken the entire flight and it occurs to him they haven’t once made eye contact. Or rather, he’s managed to avoid making eye contact. He’s gotten very good at that the last few years.

What had he been dreaming about just now? It wasn’t one of those lucid dreams he has from time to time, dreams in which he becomes aware that he’s dreaming and can tap the strange worlds conjured by his subconscious to come up with creative solutions for problems with his work. This was an ordinary dream, the kind that create a scenario you take to be real until you wake up and realize how absurd it all was. In the dream he’d been a boy again, with his father, in a boat on a calm lake fringed with a lacy morning mist. The floats of their submerged lures scarcely moving on the water’s glassy surface. They’d forgotten to bring the lunch Mom packed for them and they joked about being forced to eat whatever they managed to catch, right there in the boat.

What if it’s a rubber boot? he’d asked his father.

We’ll have a lot of chewing to do, said the Ben Hewitt of his dream, a far more sage and unflappable patriarch than he’d ever been in life.

In the dream he had looked up to see the mist thinning. They’d been inside a cloud, he realized in wonder, and now it was thinning out, its infinitesimal droplets dissolving back into invisible vapour. Any moment now these hazy drifting walls were going to lift like a curtain and all would be revealed. They would see and know where they were.

His voice trembling with excitement, he gripped his father’s arm.

You need to watch this, Dad.

Ben Hewitt’s eyes stay fixed on the water, as if he hadn’t heard, and Alex had no choice but to look where his father was looking. He glimpsed them then, out of reach in the green transparent depths. They were of many shapes, hues, and kinds. They moved in the currents of their own unfathomable dreams, dreams that had never imagined an impossible creature like him.

You have to keep quiet, his father said, if you want them to bite.



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