Red Rain © Carlos Rodriguez

Tomas looked down from the balcony. 

This house, the house he’d grown up in, was old, fad­ed. The cool blues and sweet mel­ons of his child­hood for­got­ten and replaced with dry grays and dingy mus­tards. It was as if his moth­er had tak­en all of the col­or with her when she left. Papa had told them that she died. Suddenly one night when Tomas was 12 and Hugo had just turned 4. 

Tomas had believed Papa and Hugo had not. And that is all you need to know about the two Claudio brothers. 

This morn­ing Tomas is 32 and Hugo 24. Papa is just eter­nal­ly mid­dle aged. Tomas thinks he is 50, Hugo thinks 47. 

It is spring. Or it should be. It doesn’t seem like spring. The clouds won’t lift in the evening to let the dusk through as they ought to. There is no small break in the after­noon when the rain stops for an hour or two and the birds can sing a bit and flit around the over­grown back­yard gath­er­ing the tufts of dry grass from under the over­hangs where they have been shel­tered from the win­ter rains.

Tomas is in the par­lor. Waiting for Elena to come back from what ever errand she has gone off to. He nev­er real­ly knows why she’s gone out. He doesn’t believe that it mat­ters to her. Only that she is able to leave his father’s house and his mother’s ghost and Magda’s peering.

Tomas is home for a rest, to recov­er. Over work they had said. Take some time off, then we’ll see. He had come back with Elena, his pret­ty, accom­plished wife. They are liv­ing in his father’s house, wait­ing to see. Elena is per­haps mak­ing plans. Plans to return to the cap­i­tal, plans to find a house here in town, plans to remain in his fathers house, with his mother’s ghost, in Magda’s place. She doesn’t say. 

Magda had been his nurse and then Hugo’s nurse and then she had gone to help at cousin Estrella’s just before their moth­er had died. Or left if you believe Hugo’s ver­sion of the story. 

Magda had come back about the time Tomas left for uni­ver­si­ty, just when Papa and Hugo no longer need­ed any one to keep house for them. Just when Papa and Hugo would have been glad to be rid of the suc­ces­sion of women who had tried to make the house on Palacio Square into their house. Into some­thing that clear­ly had a woman to direct it and man­age it and steer it along the path to rightness. 

And Magda had stayed. Stayed through Hugo fin­ish­ing high school, stayed through Hugo leav­ing for uni­ver­si­ty, stayed through Papa shut­ting up the rooms upstairs, stayed through the days and weeks when Papa worked and ate and slept any­where but in the house in Palacio Square. 

Stayed when Hugo came back from the cap­i­tal car­ry­ing a fresh degree in engi­neer­ing in his pock­et and plan­ning to join his father at Lucerne Iron Works. No one had ever under­stood why Papa’s grand­fa­ther had named the foundry Lucerne. It was not a secret. Merely a ques­tion met with a shrug. Who knew. Who cared. It was Lucerne and they made gird­ers and beams and fac­to­ry sheds and bridges and enough mon­ey to be hap­py and well fed and hold their heads up in town and to be left alone. To be left alone. Hugo and Papa just want­ed to be left alone. Except that Magda did­n’t want them to be alone. 

And Tomas was begin­ning to under­stand that his wife didn’t want them to be left alone either. 

But just this moment he was sit­ting on the lit­tle bal­cony of the upstairs par­lor, look­ing over the square. Watching the umbrel­las pass below him. Circles of black and brown and blue. Circles mov­ing across the square. No hands, no feet, no flicks of boot, or shoes, or san­dals. He is wait­ing for his wife’s laven­der umbrel­la to appear below him. A per­fect cir­cle of float­ing col­or against the shin­ing gray paving stones. And the one moment in the day when he tru­ly thinks she is beautiful.


2 replies on “Umbrella”

  1. That’s love­ly. Nearly a poem, always a story.

    Well turned, sharply focused, with the details around the edges final­ly show­ing us the cen­ter: what’s under the umbrel­la is too impor­tant sim­ply to flash into a quick dig­i­tal image.


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