Friday, November 16, 2012

RAIN DANCE - Short Fiction

This week's writing prompt from Write on Edge is: a 400-word fiction or creative non-fiction piece influenced by the idea of RAIN.

When Richard woke, it was still dark. After untangling himself from his mosquito net, he threw on his robe and slid into loafers. Grabbing a flashlight, he rushed through the rain to the outhouse. His hopes for a modern bathroom at the pensão had been dashed the previous night when the other volunteer had delivered him to the boarding house at his Peace Corps site. The side-by-side stalls in the privy were crawling with roaches.
Holding his cramped stomach, he returned to his room, glad that his vomiting had finally stopped. Despite being only ten degrees from the equator, he donned socks and pulled a sweatshirt over his cotton pajamas. Wriggling into bed, he wondered why he had expected a real mattress. What he got was a huge cotton sack stuffed with straw. Eventually, he fell asleep again.
When he woke, he heard splashing raindrops. He shoved the mosquito net aside to discover water dripping from the red-tiled roof into his right loafer and dancing onto the mud-brick floor. 
Outside his door a female voice said, “Seu Ricardo?”
“May I come in?”
A dark, homely teenager dressed in a faded green shift tiptoed into the room. With her eyes lowered to the foot of Richard’s bed, she asked, “Seu Ricardo, my mother wants to know if you want breakfast?” 
Não, I do not have hunger.”
“Will you have lunch here?” the girl asked, pulling at her kinky hair, never meeting his eyes.
Not sure if he would ever want to eat again, he said, “I want sleep.”
The girl shuffled toward the door in her plastic sandals.
“Wait,” Richard said. He couldn’t remember the Portuguese word for rain. “The, uh, water comes from the, ah....” He pointed to the tiled roof, then to his overflowing shoe. The girl’s broad face looked like a blank brown canvas. Again he pointed to the roof and the shoe. 
Bending at the waist, the girl pulled a chamber pot from under the extra bed, removed the lid, and placed the enameled pot under the leak. She emptied his shoe into it, then quietly moved to the hall, closing the door behind her.
At first Richard thought the girl had believed him to be an idiot because he couldn’t remember the words for rain or ceiling. Then he decided she thought he had foolishly placed the shoe there to catch the water. 
He curled up in a ball, wondering what in the hell he had gotten himself into.

This story is a slightly-revised excerpt from CJ's in-progress novel: A Little Slice of Heaven. The story takes place in a fictional, Portuguese-speaking country, in a small town much like the one where CJ spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Richard, at first, decides he will stay for a few days, then find an appropriate opportunity to resign and head home. Eventually, he is drawn in by the culture, and especially the warm, outgoing citizens, but there are still a multitude of obstacles to overcome in this foreign land.

Read the author's non-fiction stories about her experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brazil on her other blog: A Little "Peace" of Brazil


Anonymous said...

I love the opening paragraph because it is the perfect example of *showing* the reader what they need to know... the net, the outhouse... by the time we see "Peace Corps" we completely understand.

It is such an adorable, quirky little human interaction here... him, supposedly the educated man from a wealthier society, and he realizes that his own actions made him look like an idiot!

Banker Chick said...

A good story you can feel his discomfort in the strange surroundings. It was funny that he was worried the girl thought he was a idiot.

Tina L. Hook said...

This scene feels fully imagined to me. I was sucked right in and ready to read the next page. Really well done.

Stopping by from Write on Edge.

Jennifer said...

I'm kind of wondering what he got himself into as well. He doesn't seem like a Peace Corp kinda guy.

Patricia Lynne said...

Heh. I feel a bit bad for Richard having to rough it. Great job.

CJ said...

Thanks for the comments everyone. The character and scene are fictitious, but the situation is very real. While serving in the Peace Corp, I experienced lots of intestinal and stomach upsets and slept on a straw mattress under a mosquito net. I never lived in a pensão, because a volunteer who had been there for a year allowed me to share her home, complete with leaking roof. Sometimes I slept with an umbrella propped over my head, until our landlord had time to repair a slipped or broken tile. Although I now consider my two-year service in Brazil to be the most rewarding experience of my life, while I lived through it I often asked myself what in the hell I was doing in the middle of nowhere without electricity, running water or a sewage system. Although I was one of only a handful of people in town who had more than an elementary education, I cannot count the number of times I felt like a total fool because I couldn't say what I wanted to say or didn't understand the local customs or ways of doing things,

Cait said...

Love the language barrier struggle here! And you set up the scene really well with few, poignant words.

Kathleen Basi said...

This is so evocative in so many ways. Amy's comment is spot on. Sensory details and conflict--check. Setting through action--check. Go you.

Masala Chica said...

This is great, CJ. So believable. Looking forward to reading more about Richard!

Shelton Keys Dunning said...

Fantastic scene. Brilliant, simply brilliant!

Cameron said...

Many have commented about the great use of showing your character and setting in the opening paragraphs. So well done!

The interactions are wonderfully human.