It has been raining almost continuously for more than a week in this "neck of the woods: where I settled many years ago in the exercise of my man's right to the pursuit of happiness.
After long and earnest effort, I am more than ever convinced that all men have that right to the pursuit, if not to the capture, of this elusive state of mind which - however, that's not the point.
As I began to explain, when I was interrupted by a maudlin urge to metaphysics, it has been raining continuously here for many days and this, combined with an annoying illness has kept me indoors for longer than that.
Today a treacherously smiling sun tempted me forth to the local store, post office, club and information bureau where foregather the rugged forefathers of the village to discuss the vital topics of the day and place, and bemoan the price of "spuds."
The sun still leered coquettishly as I reached the post office, disappointed to find the postmaster alone and distinctly unsocial. To my query about the arrival of the mail, his intelligent grunt, properly interpreted, assured me that it was not yet in. To my bright and hopeful remark about the passing of the rain, his answer was a repressed snarl directed to the world outside where, above the still dripping trees, the sun shone on brilliantly.
Thus discouraged, I went outside and sat on one of the many cases that littered the small verandah. The sun continued to shine, but away to the north the edge of a dark grey cloud seemed to project across the tree-tops a menace that mocked the glowing scene. Coming to the door the postmaster noted the direction of my glance, and I gathered that this incessant rain had been rather bad for trade.
The mail-car arrived shortly after, and the mailman, having delivered the bags, proceeded to unload his heterogeneous collections of household supplies - meat, bread, groceries and whatnot.
Some he stacked in the shelter of the verandah, others, the larger parcels - bags, boxes, etcetera - he piled on the ground beside the fence in the open. Then, after a few tentative remarks about the weather, parked his car and went within to the private quarters to partake of lunch eaten to the accompaniment of a blaring wireless.
Presently, as the disgruntled postmaster sorted the mail, there came down the road four men - old Joe, the pensioner, and a trio of cronies known in the district as "The Three Musqueteers" or the "Three B's" - Ben, Bill and Bob. All were bush born and therefore all weatherwise.
Having collected letters and papers, they came out on to the verandah to discuss the inevitable topic. They spoke in wonder of the almost ceaseless rain of recent days, expounding each his theory as to its cause and possible ending. These theories differed, of course, and, as they argued, the grey cloud crept up the northern sky.
At one period, Ben mentioned casually a bag of sugar which, for motives of economy, the three had bought between them. Bill supposed it was "lyin' around somewheres," and Bob again took up the thread of his pet theory that all rain was influenced by the stars. Meantime, the grey cloud suddenly blotted out the sun and light rain began to fall.
Old Jim stood about impatiently, eager to break in with an urgent word. He babbled of wireless, but babbled in vain.
Tempers began to rise. The rainfall grew heavier. Bob pinned his faith to the stars; Bill his to vaguely comprehended sun-spots; Ben continued to cleave to the phases of the moon; the rain fell yet more heavily on the verandah roof, and old Jim's piping voice piped vainly and with increasing urgency on certain evils that the coming of wireless had introduced.
Suddenly, in the midst of savage argument, all six ears of the weather prophets seemed to gather at once the imports of old Jim's now hysterical remarks, and all three turned upon him in fierce contempt.
"Aw, you and yer wireless," yelled Ben. "We've heard all that rot before. How can wireless have anything to do with rain an' weather?"
"Ridic'lis!" said Bill.
"Silly lotter rot!" said Bob.
But old Jim stuck to his guns manfully.
"Who's talking about the weather?" he asked plaintively. "Wot I'm tryin' to tell yous gabblin' goats is that if the mailman was not so fond of listenin' to the racin' noos on the wireless, he'd have put that sugar of yours under shelter, 'stead of leavin' it out in the rain."
And he pointed to where, leaning against the fence, their joint bag of sugar sagged pathetically against the fence, at least a third of its sodden contents already gone in the muddy rivulets that flowed about it.
Fortunately, what was by now the battering thunder of rain upon the roof deafened me to the subsequent remarks of the "Three B's" as they retrieved their wilting bag of syrup and went inside to seek the mailman.
"It's rainin' again," said the sardonic postmaster. "Wonder wot's the cause?"
I waited till the heavy shower was over for a time, then made my way home reflecting upon the strange ways to at least a modicum of brief happiness. For my ingrowing grouch had disappeared and I chuckled as I went, and I have been chuckling at intervals ever since.
It is still raining.
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2003|