I was only a block from work when the clouds exploded. Even though I ran and jumped until I made the nearest doorway, the rain had become a part of me. Water dripped from my hair, crawled along my neck, and pushed its way through my clothes.
Two other men had also aimed for the doorway. One held a can of beer. The other had a paper bag that had torn in the rain and no longer held anything.
Water splashed everywhere. The man with the empty bag shook his head. "I knew it. Didn't I tell you if you brought that beer out here, the rains would start again?" he said, looking straight at me.
"Don't you yell at me," said the man with the beer. Water from his coat dripped into the opening of the can. "I'm not one of your bitches."
"I didn't yell at you," said the other man. "I only said I knew you'd bring the rain on again if you carried out your beer. Bringing out a fresh-opened can of beer on a cloudy day is just asking for rain."
"I got me two daughters and one dead son." The man took a swallow and spit it out into the growing puddle that trapped us in the doorway.
"You just had to take out that beer, didn't you?"
"My son just died. Did you know that? My son just died."
"Look at you. Holding that beer like it's the last beer in the world. You're soaking wet. Look at that rain. It's all going into your beer."
"I got to get me another woman. I got to get me another son."
"Let's ask that man there what he thinks."
They both turned and stared at me. The man holding the bag asked, "Didn't he jinx us? You're even wetter than we are. Isn't it true an open beer on a cloudy day brings rain?"
"I never heard that one," I said. "But based on this storm, there seems to be some truth to it."
"See," said the man with the torn bag. Then he dropped the bag into the puddle, which was now the size of a small stream. "I knew I was right. I knew you should have left that beer at home."
"What about my son? What about him?" the man with the beer asked me.
"I'm sorry he passed away," I said. "I'm truly sorry."
"Too bad you're not a bitch," he said. "I bet you'd give me a son."
"The rain's getting worse," said the other man. "You should have left the beer like I told you."
"I still got two daughters. Two daughters and one dead son." Then he poured the rest of his beer into the water and tossed the can into the giant puddle against the curb. He watched the can begin to float down 51st Street. "See," he said. "I knew my beer wasn't what caused the rain. I knew it. See, it's only getting worse."
"You're too late," said the other. "You started the rain by bringing the can out."
When I left, they were still arguing.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.