Rain Baby sits in the damp cafe and consults her copy of War and Peace, attuning herself to its unusual frequencies: The seagull's cry of loss, the fall of blossom in the abandoned garden, the low hum of the bluebottle feasting on the carrion. Her copy of the novel is beloved, a well-thumbed treasure, annotated and diaried. She uses it for daily practice, consulting Tolstoy before making any decision. That is how she has come to be in this cafe, in this land. She is in her Russian period. Before Tolstoy it had been Chekhov and she had yearned for her three sisters, and to know the precise provenance of her father's silver topped cane. She had longed for Moscow.
Today, as the rain exhausts the cafe window, she taps out the rhythm of the book with her fingertips, drumming against the yellow vinyl of the table, not even knowing she is waiting for him to come in. When he arrives he is a stranger to her. He is dressed like an exclamation mark in surplice and trainers. He inclines his grave head by means of greeting, and lies down across two chairs, like a sword. His halo is as true as a gold coin. In spite of herself Rain Baby is interested. She walks round to his side of the table and stares boldly at him.
The stranger is asleep. Perhaps he has come to lie down, for nothing more than the simple mercy afforded by the cafe of somewhere warm. Nonetheless Rain Baby is offended. She perceives his eccentric sleep as a mockery of her patient waiting and her long journey. She beseeches the red-faced barman with her eyes, but he is polishing cups with a grey cloth, and is unprepared to intervene. She thinks, he probably doesn't care who does what so long as they're quiet. And the still guy in the vicar's outfit, he is quiet.
Rain Baby goes over to the stranger and places her hand on his frocked leg. The faint scent of cashews rises from him. He opens his eyes and sits, simply upright. He hands her the envelope from his breast pocket, and she comprehends that his archness is merely a part of the message.
Far above them, the angels in their glass bottomed boats are peering down from the clouds and sending their blessing of rain on folded grey wings.
The copyright of this post belongs to Claire Steele