The Millennium Rain
Alice Whittenburg
Hayward Fault Line Winning Story

B y December Father saw the omens everywhere and preached about them like a mad thing. He said that if we built an ark we were sure to be saved, but all I cared about was surviving. I wanted the same for scorpions, snakes and tarantula spiders, which were easy to capture compared to the deer and coyotes that fought like mad things. Mrs. Cleveland Cooper, the widow Father hopes to marry, was even harder to convince. But finally, on New Year's Eve, just before we entered the new Millennium, when the first drops of rain fell on the desert and drew the smell of creosote into the air, she agreed to come onto the ark.
That night, while Father and I sealed the hull, Mrs. Cleveland Cooper stocked the pantry. Close to midnight a hard rain came to spur us on. It sluiced nesting birds out into the night where I collected them, male and female, to add to what we would take besides ourselves. We worked like mad things all night long, knowing we were the ones who would rebuild the world after the millennium rain.
In the morning when the mountains began to show against the waterlogged sky we finished at last, and we hauled the ark out to the road to prop it in its own small dry dock. Then we prayed a little bit when the sky glowed red, thinking this might be the beginning of the end. But we knew we were ready for anything now, so we allowed ourselves some sleep. After only half an hour, we all sat bolt upright at the same time, listening for the torrents of water that would wash the world clean. But when we went outside, nothing had changed except that two pack rats had gnawed their way to freedom. Also one of the big scorpions had killed its mate and fiercely held up its tail, tipped with a slender, curved spine. Father said this was an omen about the way things could go between men and women, and Mrs. Cleveland Cooper said that this time he got it right.
Amazingly, by noon the sun was out, the sky was brilliant blue, the ground was dry, the ark had grown weary of waiting in its dry dock and simply toppled over. The coyotes' cage burst, and they bounded away like mad things. I was stung by a scorpion, though not the deadly kind. Before she left to go back home, humming her fury like a mad thing, Mrs. Cleveland Cooper said maybe we were determined to survive but we surely weren't ready to be saved.

First published: October 31, 1998