Updated: 7 days ago
By Kathrina E. Jones -
All “Dit/Dah” Morse Code in this story is a shorthand system of "Q Codes" used by HAM operators to save time with standard communications. Those I've used are: three repeats each of “CQ” which means “Can anyone hear me?"; “QSL?” meaning “Can you acknowledge receipt?"; “QRV?” meaning “Are you ready?”; and “QSK?” meaning “Shall I continue the transmission of all my traffic?”
Dah Dit Dah Dit/Dah Dah Dit Dah Dah Dit Dah Dit/Dah Dah Dit Dah Dah Dit Dah Dit/Dah Dah Dit Dah
Josh sat up abruptly, reaching for the pen and paper that weren’t where they were supposed to be. He fumbled for his weapon, befuddled, before realizing that wasn’t there either. His hands, shaky with adrenaline, covered his face as he hunched over on the edge of the bed and groaned.
Tentatively, Becky asked, “What’s wrong?” Her hand hovered uncertainly, afraid to touch him if he wasn’t awake enough yet.
A long sigh preceded his head landing heavily on the pillow beside her as he groped for her fingers. “Flashback, I guess,” Josh muttered. “I thought I was in the com shed, had fallen asleep. A message started coming through.”
She squeezed his hand reassuringly. Stayed quiet for a time. When his breathing had slowed, she spoke. “Back with me now?”
His grunt indicated agreement.
“Good. I like you here. Seems like your brain has become restless since you retired. You need an occupation.” Even half asleep, her good-natured pragmatism shone. “Just listen to that rain. I love falling asleep to the sound of rain on a metal roof.”
He let go of her hand and patted her thigh, bare under the covers. It was acknowledgement, agreement. He closed his eyes, concentrated on breathing, regulating his heart rate. And he listened to the rain tapping on the roof.
Dah Dah Dit Dah/Dit Dit Dit/Dit Dah Dit Dit/Dit Dit Dah Dah Dit Dit
His eyes snapped open in the darkness; his hand tensed on her thigh. He forced himself to relax, moved his hand, listened.
Dah Dah Dit Dah/Dit Dah Dit/Dit Dit Dit Dah/Dit Dit Dah Dah Dit Dit
“Babe, I’m gonna get up for a while. Maybe do some reading,” he murmured, rolling upright again.
The susurration of a “Sure,” was the response, and he ran a gentle hand down her cheek before pulling on his robe as he left the room. Reaching the kitchen, he flipped on the coffee maker and grabbed a notepad and pen. But the gurgle-splat! of the coffee was too distracting, so—making do with the aroma—he moved to the screened porch. The sound of the rain redoubled without the insulation that lined the interior of their cabin, and he took a deep breath of the cool moist air. “Won’t need the coffee now,” he muttered, and sat down to listen. And to write.
Dah Dah Dit Dah/Dit Dit Dit/Dah Dit Dah/Dit Dit Dah Dah Dit Dit
Josh wrote until dawn. Becky found him in an exhausted sprawl on the old couch they often sat on to watch the sunset. He heard her moving about and rubbed bleary eyes. “What’s this?” she asked, indicating the scattered papers surrounding a sheet with some cleanly-written lines.
“Reading turned into writing,” he yawned. “Sleepless philosophy, and all.”
She picked up the paper. “The cause of mud is the only source to clean it?”
“Danger and life fill the same vessel. Drink deeply.” She chuckled. “What were you reading? Confucius?”
Josh shook his head. “Something like that.” He got up and gathered the mess together. “Look. The rain cleared the sky.”
“Let’s go for a walk after breakfast.”
Josh learned that different rain had different voices. The summer rain—that first one he heard—was playful, irreverent. Daring. It had a tendency toward sneakiness; it wanted to arrive unexpectedly. But the hints of petrichor that wafted through the air before the clouds filled the sky always gave it away. It liked to speak of contrasts; they were its inherent nature.
The mist that drifted in from the ocean between rains whispered secrets he could scarcely hear, emphasizing its points with the condensed drops dripping from the trees. “The weak, in cohesion, obscure the mighty.” “Beneath the shrouds is beauty. Seek it.” “Solace and life come from the gentlest touch.”
The summer lightning storms were manic, a product of the frenetic energy imparted at their origin. “Live. LiveLiveLiveLiveLive!” they chanted. “Dance! Take Chances! Never stop.” “Power! Pain! Beauty! Same.
SameSameSameSame.” He was equally exhausted and exhilarated, fingers cramping as he recorded each letter. He knew the storm believed what it said, but he trusted some of the others more. The lightning made it dangerous.
During one such storm, Becky joined him on the porch, fascinated by the crashing thunder almost drowned by the pounding rain. “Staccato. Allegro. Fortissimo!” she exclaimed just as another lightning bolt illuminated the shoreline below.
Josh turned twinkling eyes to hers. “Always my beautiful musician,” he murmured. “Which piece is it this time?”
Her eyes closed dreamily. “Carmina Burana. Carl Orff.”
He threw his head back and laughed. “If you had your way,” he said, rising from the table and holding out his hand in the courtly gesture that was prelude to a dance, “our lives would be a musical.”
“Our lives are a musical,” she replied, settling into his arms in the way that only she could. “It’s just that nobody else can hear the music.” They danced, the rain driving them on, until—panting—she cried a halt. He settled her into the chair beside his, and she picked up the paper he had been writing on. “Morse code?”
“I hear it in the rain,” he confessed, unabashed.
One shoulder lifted casually as her face turned impish. “And I hear the soundtrack of our lives,” she returned. She set the paper down and indicated a long string of dots and dashes. “What’s that one say?”
Her well-honed skeptical eyebrow speared him. “That’s an awful lot of writing for ‘Live.’”
“Okay. Well, technically—” he pointed to each grouping as he spoke— “it’s” ●―●●/●●/●●●―/●/●―●―●― “Live.” ●―●●/●●/●●●―/●/●―●●/●●/●●●―/●/●―●●/●●/●●●―/●/●―●●/●●/●●●―/●/●―●●/●●/●●●―/● “LiveLiveLiveLiveLive!”
Becky snorted into giggles. “Okay.” Pointing to a shorter line, she asked, “and this?”
He took her hand. “Dance.”
The wrinkles by her eyes and mouth deepened once more. “What else has the rain told you?”
“A storm is coming, later,” Becky said one morning at breakfast.
“Yeah. Do we need to go to town before it hits?”
“I think so. It’d be nice to get some groceries. We can have pizza for lunch.” After filling the trunk with the groceries they needed, Josh and Becky walked hand in hand through the park near the center of town, wearing light jackets against the brisk day. “Just look at all the leaves,” Becky marveled. “They’re glorious.” She let go of his hand and began picking up the prettiest specimens. Josh strolled on, occasionally stepping deliberately on a particularly crispy looking leaf, just to hear it crunch. Becky came back with a handful of vibrance. “Hold these,” she ordered peremptorily. “I want more for my bouquet.”
“As my lady wishes,” Josh said, shaking his head. Two leaf-gathering expeditions later, even his larger hands were full. “Ready for lunch?” he asked, glancing at the gathering clouds. She nodded, and he lifted the bouquet. “What do you want with these?”
“Rain me a rainbow,” she answered, throwing her hands up and around in an arc. He echoed the gesture letting the leaves fly and flutter down around them as she spun with her arms outstretched.
On the way home from town, Josh stopped the car so they could watch the golden-ruddy leaves lashed from the trees, and to listen to the boastful, blustering storm. “That which conforms most easily contains the power of destruction.” “Persist, and overcome.”
The brash autumn rains mellowed into the steady stolid rains of winter. It didn’t snow where they lived, but the rain persisted. He installed storm windows over the screens, and bought a space heater. But though the rains spoke incessantly, he did not always play the faithful scribe. Becky, his wife of fifty-three years—she who had taught him to once again laugh, to live despite it all—Becky, who read everything he wrote down and told him he wasn’t crazy, was ill. Their long walks became fewer, shorter. She curled up in the couch’s embrace, cozy in a nest of down comforters, and smiled when the rain began again. “Listen,” she murmured. “Tell me. You know I’ve always loved the rain.”
Josh listened. Wrote. Corrected. His hands trembled as he lifted watery eyes to her. “We do not burn,” he whispered hoarsely. “Though we are changed, still we are. Our effect is far-reaching. Through the ebb and flow comes our legacy.”
“I want to know what the spring rains say,” she said, determination laced with weariness in her eyes. “And you need to type all your notes.” During a break in the storms, they bought a computer. Pianist’s fingers, gnarled with age but still nimble remembered long-ago typing lessons, and the wisdom of the rain was recorded.
In the spring, he sat by her hospital bed and held her hand. “The spring rain is naïve,” he scoffed.
“You’re naïve,” she retorted. “And bitter.” Her gaze met his steadily until he sighed on a choked sob, head falling to the edge of her bed. She stroked his hair weakly until he calmed and turned to gaze at her again. “Tell me.”
The paper in his hand crinkled as he glanced at it. “Speak softly. Tenderness encourages life.” The tears hadn’t ceased. “Underneath the bleakness is growth.” He touched her cheek. “The world is fresh and new.”
“Keep listening,” she whispered. “The rain speaks wisdom. Write it all down.”
His thumb moved to the final line on the page. She breathed her last as he exhaled, “Listen to the rain.”
F I N
Kathrina E. Jones carts a notebook around so she can write when the muse strikes. She is a wife, a mother of three, and a foodie. The family lives in a Tiny House on wheels and spends time in various pursuits in a variety of places (sometimes sans electricity), and so--besides the catharsis of writing by hand--the notebook is the most practical way to ensure writing can be fitted in whenever (and wherever) possible. Because she has been an obsessive reader of just about everything since she was a child, her writing ranges from poetry to short stories to novels of various genres that take too long to write (because living life is important) to the occasional children's story. She has even spent some time writing curriculum for online college courses. She has recently published a collection of poetry entitled "My Heart's Home" centered around her favorite location in the world--Mineral King, California--and is anticipating more projects reaching publication as she completes them.