“It rains more now,” my wife repeats, a bit out of habit at this point.
Her pinky finger slips inside the tiny grey cloud floating past her head. The delicate touch releases a sprinkle into the puddle drowning her rubber boots. I look at the hundreds of little puffs moseying around our lawn—lake might be a better word—relieving themselves as they drift. A cold breeze shifts them a foot closer to me. I exhale, realizing I’d been holding my breath for some time.
In the past, wherever we lived, the clouds had always been high up, blotting out the sun to save our skin from freckles; contorting themselves for entertainment into shapes of things we dreamed of seeing. These low clouds though—they were different.
We moved to this brick rancher in May, when the trees surrounding it were lush with dense green leaves. In the summer, we’d watch the clouds drift into the leaves and deliver the sweet droplets of hydration. In autumn, when the towering trees held their annual election and agreed to shed their leaves once more, our secret base was exposed. The deciduous nudists stripped down and left the conservative pines and spruce evergreens embarrassed once more. I do my best to avert my stare from the limbs that, in fairer weather, had hidden the clouds’ parents from view: two matching cooling towers slurping from the river to ease their atomic tummy aches and giving birth to listless spawn that bore very little resemblance to their parents’ hyperboloid shape.
“It does rain more,” I say in a monotone voice, slowly pressing my foot into a low hanging puff of moisture.
“Don’t do that,” my wife scolds me.
I apologize and I mean it—it was thoughtless—and I fear parts of me are so saturated they are becoming cruel. The waterlogged cloud drifts along the top of the lake-like surface of my backyard. I’m unsure if it is floating in the air or on the water. I worry that the elm tree is judging me but am too embarrassed to look. Instead, I look west at the cause of our rainy influx: the three automated miniature helicopter swivel through the sky, herding the poofs of white away from my neighbor’s perfectly manicured lawn; maintained in warmer seasons by a sprinkler system offering just enough drink for their blades of grass to thrive.
The blades of our yard are buried inches beneath floodwater; the greenery preserved like a sculpture in resin. I can hear our sump-pumps firing into overdrive, trying unsuccessfully to rescue our basement from the running flood waters. The faux-wood paneling installed has made it clear that it would prefer not to grow wrinkled like a toddler too long in the bathtub. I promise to straighten it out, but I feel like we can’t solve our interior problems until we address our exterior problems. Our dog splashes happily as he herds another drifting cloud across our unwanted lake into the white structure resting in the center of our lawn. I open the latch and let the puff slide in; slam it immediately, so nothing slides out. The dog is useless for automotive repairs and home renovations, but this is something his online therapist assured us he can do. We both call out praise, but I choke and gargle the words as a low cloud floats down my throat. It tastes like dense mildew, not fresh, and light like you would hope.
We always must check before opening the front door, but sometimes I’m in a rush and forget. Sometimes there is a cloud waiting for you to walk through it, leaving you late for work with a soaking wet shirt. Other times, a cloud is waiting to sneak past you and release its load in the foyer.
My wife puts her arm around my waist, and I sling mine over her shoulder. It won’t be long now until the container is filled. We watch the helicopter blades fan the clouds in our direction. It’s an expensive solution, especially for new homeowners. We asked the neighbor to send the clouds into the open fields towards the back of her property, but she just smiled and assured us the old owners never had a problem. I demonstrated the problem to her and she insisted the helicopters were working how they should. I called the township to complain and they recommended we purchase our own helicopters at a discounted rate. Instead, for a fraction of the price, we invested in the used container and a trailer hitch. It won’t fix anything. It won’t dry our soggy socks. It won’t stop the water from invading, but some things are more important than floods.
Soon, the frost will come and the low cloud hatchlings will birth fresh snow. Soon, we will open the container on our neighbor’s front steps in the middle of the night—the helicopters will not work when the air is below freezing. When she awakens in the morning, she’ll open her front door to a stampede of dense clouds.
“It snows more now,” my neighbor will say as a blizzard swirls through her living room into her kitchen. We’ll spend the day skating on our thin ice.