This Morning It Looked Like Rain ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
It was the annual end-of-school picnic for the teachers. Another school year filed and put away. Ethel Fix, Pauline Schoonover, Grace Wolfe and Margaret Durfee sat with Mr. Goodapple, the school principal, at his table along with Mr. Goodapple’s son, Zeke. Of the four women, three were married. Only Margaret Durfee was without a husband. Knowing that Mr. Goodapple was a recent divorcee, she made no secret of the fact that she would make herself available to him if he so desired. Mr. Goodapple, for his part, wasn’t interested in Margaret Durfee or anybody else. Whenever he realized that she was looking at him with a secret and suggestive smile (suggestive of what?), the only thing he felt for her was embarrassment.
“It turned out to be a lovely day after all,” Grace Wolfe said.
“Yes, lovely,” Ethel Fix said. “It’s supposed to rain tonight, though.”
“When we’re all safely in our beds.”
“The park is lovely in the springtime,” Pauline Schoonover said.
“Summer is right around the corner,” Grace Wolfe said.
“What are you going to do this summer?” Ethel Fix said.
“My husband and I bought a camping trailer. We thought we’d take a few little trips. Fishing trips, mostly.”
“Do you fish?”
“No, mostly I swat mosquitoes.”
“I’m going to give my house a thorough cleaning during vacation. Do a little painting.”
“Oh, do you paint landscapes or portraits?”
“I’m going to keep to town,” Margaret Durfee said. “I don’t really have any special plans, other than to relax. I’m not seeing anybody special or anything like that. I’ll be alone most of the time.”
“Goodness!” Pauline Schoonover said. “Don’t you get lonely?”
“Well, sometimes. Maybe a little.”
Young Zeke Goodapple, age thirteen, sighed loudly and yawned. All the ladies turned and looked at him.
“I think we’re boring Zeke to death with our talk,” Ethel Fix said.
“I’m sure he didn’t mean to be rude,” Mr. Goodapple said. “Did you, Zeke?”
“Tell the ladies you didn’t mean to be rude.”
“No, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“Do you have some interesting plans for the summer, Zeke?” Margaret Durfee asked.
“That’s not true, now, is it, Zeke?” Mr. Goodapple said. “You do have some interesting plans.”
“What kind of plans?” Grace Wolfe asked.
“Tell them, Zeke,” Mr. Goodapple said. “Tell the ladies what you’re going to be doing this summer.”
“Um, I don’t remember.”
“Zeke will be taking a couple of remedial courses in summer school so he’ll be ready for junior high when school takes up again. English and math. And that’s not all, is it, Zeke?”
“When he’s not in school, he’ll be taking swimming lessons at the YWMC.”
“Oh, won’t that be fun!” Pauline Schoonover said.
“I don’t have a suit,” Zeke said.
“A suit? Why do you need a suit?”
“Oh, yes! Of course!”
“I don’t really want to go into the pool,” Zeke said. “I’m afraid of the water. I have dreams where I can see myself being pulled out with hooks. Dead.”
“The boy has a vivid imagination,” Mr. Goodapple said. “He reads horror stories every night before going to bed and I’m afraid they make him a little more morbid than he should be.”
“He probably misses his mother,” Margaret Durfee said. “He needs the steadying influence of a woman.”
“We get along fine,” Mr. Goodapple said. “We’ve adjusted quite well to the new order of things.”
“Do you like to read, Zeke?” Grace Wolfe asked.
“Sure. I like stories where all the characters get killed. I also like monster movies. I always want the monsters to win and kill all the people, but that never happens.”
“See what I mean?” Mr. Goodapple said with a laugh.
“Well, I like monster movies, too,” Margaret Durfee said, looking appreciatively at Zeke.
“Did you know my mother went off and left me?” Zeke asked.
“I don’t think we need to talk about that now,” Mr. Goodapple said.
“She married some guy I never met. He already has three kids so they didn’t have room for me.”
“We discussed it at length and decided it was best for Zeke to remain with me,” Mr. Goodapple said.
“That seems the sensible thing,” Pauline Schoonover said.
“They live in New Mexico,” Zeke said. “I don’t think I’d like living in the desert. I have sensitive skin. Mother says she’ll send me the money for a plane ticket so I can come out and visit her sometime and meet her husband and his kids. I’ve never flown in a plane.”
“That should be quite an adventure,” Grace Wolfe said.
“I’m not afraid to fly by myself. If the plane crashes, I’ll probably die quick without really knowing what happened.”
“The plane won’t crash. You’ll be fine.”
“And when you come back,” Ethel Fix said, “you can tell your friends at school all about it.”
“I don’t have many friends,” Zeke said. “I mostly just like to be alone.”
Mr. Goodapple took out a pack of cigarettes and lit up, blowing smoke over the ladies’ heads.
“I didn’t know you smoked, Mr. Goodapple!” Pauline Schoonover said.
“Never at school. Only when I’m out like this.”
“Might I have one, dear?” Margaret Durfee asked, in imitation of a screen vamp.
He handed her the pack and his lighter, avoiding her touch, and looked away as she lit her own.
“You never really know people until you have lunch with them,” Ethel Fix said.
When everybody was finished eating, the ladies started cleaning up.
“Would you like to walk down the hill to the soldiers’ memorial with me, Zeke?” Margaret Durfee asked.
“I’m kind of tired and I have a sore toe,” Zeke said, “but I guess it’ll be all right.”
“Well, let’s go, then!”
Margaret Durfee took him by the hand as if he was a small child, but when he showed her he didn’t like that, she settled with putting her hand on his shoulder.
When they were out of sight, Grace Wolfe leaned over and said confidentially to Mr. Goodapple, “I think Miss Durfee has a terrible crush on you!”
“Don’t you see what she’s doing?” Pauline Schoonover said. “She’s trying to get to you through your son!”
“I’d watch out for her if I were you!” Ethel Fix said. “She’s one of those crazy, passionate types and you never know what they’re up to!”
He had nothing to say, but only lit another cigarette and looked at his watch. The picnic was over and, thanks be to the Lord, it was time to go home.
Copyright © 2020 by Allen Kopp