Rain slicked the sidewalk. Streams washed down the concrete and made waterfalls as the floods rushed over the curbs. Whole oceans grew at clogged storm drains.
Arnold hunched on the curb into his drenched rain jacket as another passing car sprayed the lower half of his jeans. The soaked denim clung to his hips as the pants grew heavier with each vehicle surging past.
“Come on,” Arnold said under his breath.
He peered through the sheets and down the misted road. Seeing nothing but sedans, SUV’s and a hybrid, he bowed his head and endured the downpour. The rain drummed against his raised hood and dripped around the rim to fall like a curtain onto his sopping wet sneakers.
“You just had to say yes.” Arnold shook his head and stomped his feet, creating little explosions out of the puddles. He endured another streaking rush of water-splashing traffic and then resumed peering along the fogged block.
Through chilly downpour, he spotted the striped orange hood of the moving van careening toward him like a pitched snowball.
“Finally,” said Arnold. He straightened his shoulders and the water poured down his back in sheets.
The van gushed to a stop at the curb and the puddles swarmed over the sidewalk. Arnold took a step back, and frowned up at the driver’s window. His scowl deepened as a smaller evergreen hatchback trundled passed and then backed into spot on the sidewalk by the van’s front bumper.
The van’s driver side door swung open.
“Damn it’s wet,” said the driver as he clambered out of the truck. He put up his slicker’s hood and the rain pattered against the dry fabric, dousing it in seconds. “You must be Arnold.”
Arnold retained his scowl as he nodded. “Yeah.”
The door to the hatchback opened and an umbrella emerged, the scarlet canopy opening with a pop. A pair of sneakered toes poked out next, testing the depth of the water before the driver unfolded from the car seat.
“Hey Viki,” said Arnold.
Viki tilted back the umbrella to reveal a gleaming smile, matched almost by the twinkle in her sapphire eyes. She curled into her sunny yellow rain jacket and began tip toeing through the sloshing water, trying valiantly to keep her rolled cuffs dry.
The van driver slammed the door shut.
“Arnold,” said Viki. She leaned over to shade him under the canopy long enough to give him a quick peck on the cheek.
The van driver coughed.
“This is Martin,” said Viki, tipping the umbrella toward the barrel-chested man. “You remember me telling you about Martin?”
“Yeah,” said Arnold. The brief conversation swirled out of the depths of his mind, draped in the beginnings of what would be a throbbing hangover. He recalled some connection between Martin and Viki’s new job three states away, a co-worker or subordinate or something.
Martin extended a massive hand and narrowed his beady eyes into slits. Arnold glanced at the palm, and then up into the taller man’s cowl.
“Hey,” Arnold said, giving Martin’s massive palm a stiff shake. Martin’s hearty squeeze lingered on Arnold’s rain numbed fingers. “So…you’re really going through with this?” he asked Viki.
Viki peered at the storm and then up the stoop leading into the brick-faced apartments lining the block.
“Yeah, the change will be good for me.”
“The weather doesn’t seem to think so,” said Arnold.
Viki shrugged. “Thanks for showing up.”
“Of course,” said Arnold. “What are friends for, you know?”
“Right…well, we should get this over with I guess.” She jingled her keys and settled on one for her front door. “Pretty much everything’s packed; it’s just a matter of getting it downstairs. I figure the mattress; bed frame and the sofa should go first. Everything after that’s small, so you don’t need to hang around if you have plans.”
“Plans?” Arnold scoffed. “Wouldn’t miss traipsing up three flights of stairs repeatedly for the world.”
Viki chuckled and gave his arm a shove.
Martin interrupted with a well timed sneeze.
Viki gave Martin an apologetic grin. “We should get started…”
“Either that or we’ll need a boat,” said Martin.
Viki laughed again and Arnold bowed his head, hiding his scowl behind another sheet of dripping rain. He stared at his sneakers as Viki headed toward the stoop, while Martin plodded behind her like a protective shadow. Glancing up the stairs, Arnold watched Viki unlocking the door, and then Martin helping her to push the heavy weight open. He said something Arnold didn’t catch, but Viki laughed again.
Arnold hunched into his rain jacket and kicked his sneakers into the puddle to watch the water slosh.
“You coming?” asked Viki.
Glancing up, he found her framed in the doorway, the umbrella closed and drooping from her hand like a stained waterfall. In the background, Martin loomed, but Viki’s smile spread, even though the curl of her lips drooped as if weighted from the rain.
“Yeah, I’m coming,” said Arnold. He shook the drops from his shoulders and took the stairs two at a time. Pushing back his hood he stopped on the threshold and gave Viki a half smile. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”