A sun-wrinkled elderly woman vigorously enjoying her rocking chair calls out to you as you hurry down the beaten dirt track, looking for cover before the next storm hits. Her gulping gasps, so typical of dust pneumonia, seem to come impossibly intermingled with her words, almost giving the impression that she doesn’t need to pause to breathe.

Quite some weather we’re havin’, ain’t it neighbor? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s downright glory be to have some rain at last, just wish it weren’t all comin’ down at once like there’s no tomorrow. Course the way things’ve been goin’, maybe that’s not too far off? Know what I mean?

You see the storm last week? Aw, what am i sayin’, course you did. Ain’t no one alive coulda missed that. Twister tore right through town, tossed one of them big rail cars over like it was an angry child. And then the thunder! Lord almighty, the thunder. Rain so fierce the Republican burst its bank lickity split, and it’s been so low the past two years gone that even a horse’d have trouble gettin’ a good drink. But I hear that’s exactly what it did, jumped right over the banks and went pourin’ every which way. Milly says that it even washed the McNiece’s farmhouse clean down to Red Willow.

Still, I’ve been so dried out I woulda taken it, no matter how hard it was comin’ down. I get so parched these past two years, I can hardly remember who I am and which way is up. So it was nice to have a bit of wet to wash away the doubts and remind me, know what I mean?

Lord have mercy, I’ve gone and scandalized you. I am so sorry, honey. I was just reminiscin’ about the good old days, when a body could take a bath or two every week and didn’t need to keep the leftovers for dishwashin’. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.

Besides, I ended up just stayin’ inside snug as a bug. Whatever hopes I mighta had about gettin’ wet were thrown away when that dust storm blew on in from the south. All that red clay slammin’ into the rain and fallin’ out of the sky? Looked too much like blood. Gave me the creepin’ willies somethin’ fierce. Straight out of the good book, you know? Moses and his bloody river. Like the plagues themselves have come to roost…