Near two o'clock the stars snuff out, outdone by roiling, eager cumulous. The sky sends out a timpani beat, echoing and unsyncopated. There will be rain later; for now the heavens hold back, but crackle in anticipation, giving away the game.

He abandons pretense, pulls on yesterday's pants, and returns to the porch steps to listen, to feel as the storm molds to the landscape, to his skin. He can hardly hear the night for the humming in the air. He shuts the door behind him, habitual.

Fear is not a word that he will use. He is cautious. Paranoid, perhaps, but never overly so. In the end, people are surprisingly predictable. They will act either selfishly or selflessly, both are easy to spot, and all will lie and say they do neither. There is a purity in the human spirit that he respects. Abuse is his greatest form of flattery. From his father's car to someone else's father-he's always broken things to see how they work, how he could work them better.

He won't relax until the clouds do. He'll dip and rise with their bellies, pregnant with tension, taut as an unplucked string. He's rubbing fingertips against mouth, tongue against teeth.

Years ago he'd flirted with smoking, but while the image was charming enough, he abhorred the smell. The traces it left on his clothes were unpleasant, and the idea that such a trace of himself would be left behind, unintended, was intolerable. The stopping was the most pleasing part of the experience. The bizarre idea that one could crave the acrid spice of smoke down one's throat. He'd never wanted to hurt anything more than he wanted to burn himself then. Burn down and glow like embers, fall like ash, live that quickly and die that subtly. He quit and learned to be languid.

There is no wind. The air is intimate as a woman, and the storm hanging on his bones like flesh.


He'll go for a walk before the rain comes. The thickness of the air will force him to recall how to move-every limb creating a vacuum behind itself. Feeling lungs expand and contract with the effort of heavy steps. He'll breathe in soup and exhale in short bursts. He likes to pant, a sign of living.

The road that approaches the property ends almost 100 yards from the front door. He'll go in that direction, giving him a tangible destination through everything he cannot see. He'll feel the trees more than see them as he passes each one, brushing shoulders with their blurry edges and smelling their distinctive cologne. No two pines will smell alike to him. This one richer, mature, that one sweet with the unique citrus tang of youth.

Having not yet come to terms with his own youth, he tends to act as if more seasoned, and while he's earned the right to do so it still drives him to be unflinching, unhesitant. To pause is to admit uncertainty. Uncertainty makes him uncomfortable. The way he prefers clear, crisp nights that negate the darkness with their starlit clarity. He will walk more slowly during the dim preamble to the storm, ascertaining the nature and location of everything around him before putting his back to them.

He will know when he's reached the road when the ground gives with a different quality, the gravel running from his feet and jumping into the places between toes to be discovered later when he's trying to get comfortable under mussed sheets. He'll feel an unaccustomed freedom of movement for the half-second just before the rain falls-the adjusting of air quality to the jagged river that will drop onto him all at once.

He'll be drenched systematically; an inventory of himself taken through inundation. Hair, eyelashes, shoulders, the space between the wing bones that's become more defined since he looked up to survey the tree line and get his bearings. Hipbones jutting over the waistline of pants will make waves at the bottom of his stomach.

A gully runs near the cabin creating a real possibility of flash-flooding, but, not done yet, he will stay out a bit longer. This is what he came here for. The rain will sweep out every pore, run circles around every strand of hair, chill every spot of flesh until he'll shiver violently from the top of his spine to his ankles, almost losing balance.

Cold mountain rain will always make him think of death. When he's finished with it he will turn and walk back to the cabin, open the door and close it behind him. He will sit by the ash-littered fireplace and listen to the grate sound like steel drums until morning. He will not sing to himself or anyone else.