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Summer Rain

Summer Rain

"…he wonders about Sydney, about moving there, becoming part of the landscape, living and breathing in all that new space. It would be like ants under his skin or broken glass sticking into his body…"

Summer Rain was originally published in issue eleven of Tincture Journal.

Read Summer Rain below.

The air has been thick and tight all summer. John is pleased to see the rain. He gets out of the car. Feels the wetness on his face.

“Hun, what the hell ya doing out there?” Anna peers through the front door. “Did ya get the milk? And chocolate? Hurry up, I’m hungry!”

John lifts his arms, twists his body from side to side. Rain slides off the car’s bonnet. He loves his old car. Volvo 240. Yellow and rusty, paint job peeling, tight leather seats scratched and worn. It smells like home. It reminds him of the winter air, crisp and biting in the morning, of Chiko Rolls and tomato sauce, pine cones and eucalypt leaves, of a time before Anna—a time when it was just him and the landscape, a time when hiking in the bush, sweaty and red faced was all that mattered. John separates the water with his fingers. Anna scowls.

“John, get in here!” She slams the door shut. John lets his hands fall. He has always liked rain, always liked Melbourne for this particular reason. He feels he understands Melbourne better than anyone. 

Anna hates Melbourne.

“Sunny one moment, pissin’ it down the next. Should I pack a fuckin’ scarf or a bikini? Can’t wait till we get outta here.”

John had tried to show Anna the light coming in over the Dandenongs, the sparkle of Swanston Street at dusk, the soft lure of a spring day in Carlton, the maddening but irresistible call of the MCG, the smell of dark roasted coffee beans, cafés serving caramel tarts well into the wee hours of the night.

“Yes, yes,” she had said, waving a hand impatiently, “you can get coffee and cake anywhere. A city’s a city, you know. It’s all the same.”

 John sets the milk down on the kitchen counter. Anna turns the television up. Tiny people move inside the TV box.
 “Hi,” he says loudly. He hates competing with the TV.

“Mhm,” she says, stroking her tummy with two fingers. “Baby kicked today, you know.” But she sounds bitter, resentful, as if somehow he should have known it was going to happen, as if he should have taken the day off.

“Well, that’s great!” John says, rushing over to feel her stomach.

“Oh piss off John.” She pushes him away. “Make me a cuppa, will you?” He moves back to the kitchen. “When the baby is born, we’re moving interstate.” 

John frowns and plays with the teabag string.

 “Sweetie,” he says. “Not this again. Melbourne’s a fine city for Bubs to grow up in.”

“Yeh, well, it ain’t happening. I want the best for my kid. This shit tip might be alright for you but—“

 “It’s not a shit tip,” John says. He splashes milk into her tea.

“Well, John,” she stretches her voice out. Her belly wobbles as she walks. She is due in six weeks. “I don’t know why you insist on staying here. We don’t even live near the beach. Sydney would be much nicer.” 

John stares at the lines on her faces, the streaks and craters carved in. She’s getting old, her hair a knot of tangled blonde, stray whites sinking on top. He wonders if he could ever leave her.
 “But we’re so close to the bush,” he says, handing her tea.

“We can go to the Blue Mountains. I bet Baby would love that.”

“The Blue Mountains are a tourist trap,” John says. He leans against the counter.

“Well,” Anna says, glaring. “I’m not staying here! So if you wanna be a part of Baby’s life, you’re gonna have to leave your ‘precious’ Melbourne!”

“But that’s not fair. I don’t even understand why you don’t like Melbourne.” Rain hits the windowpane. John stares longingly. Anna raises a finger and points.

“That is why,” she says. “Middle of summer—37 degrees and it’s raining!’

“You’re being unreasonable. Sometimes it rains. It evens rains in Sydney.”

“Did you watch the weather report? If you had, you’d know that Sydney was 31 degrees. No rain, no thunderstorms, none of this moody shit!”

Moody shit. Yeah, that’s right.

“This tea is weak,” Anna says, rinsing the cup under the tap. “I’ve told you a million bloody times, I like my tea strong!”

“Yeah, okay. I’m going out for a while.” John takes a jacket from the coat stand. Anna narrows her eyes. Curls her lip. Lets him go.

 Out on the street, blue lamps mingling with the milky pink of a sunset, John wonders why he puts up with it. He goes into a café and orders a strong mocha. The waitress is young and he can’t help staring at her tight breasts, the way they push together in her bra. She smiles and he quickly looks away. He doesn’t mean to be a sleaze. She brings him his coffee.


He stirs the coffee with a silver spoon. Melbourne coffee is the best. But as he sips, a milky moustache latching onto his upper lip, he is filled with doubt. It’s just bad coffee, he tells himself, it doesn’t mean anything. Melbourne is still King. But he doesn’t order another. He wonders about Sydney, about moving there, becoming part of the landscape, living and breathing in all that new space. It would be like ants under his skin or broken glass sticking into his body. It would be akin to swallowing some of kind of bug—ingesting something that wasn’t meant for him. 

John’s not sure he can do it.

The waitress comes back. She leans down and he can see a stain, maybe a birthmark, sitting just under her collar. He wonders how it makes her feel, if she is self-conscious, if the kids at school ever bullied her. He wants to say something, to reassure her of her beauty, but she takes the empty mug and is gone.

Outside, the rain has stopped. John wonders about getting a train somewhere. He is so tired, drained by his wife’s requirements, by Sydney being “Australia’s go to city”, by the unborn baby, and the bad coffee swelling around his guts. He wishes he was in bed, he wishes it was twenty years ago and he was playing cricket on Granddad’s front lawn, the sun high in the sky, casting stinkin’ hot rays and Granny brining lemonade—the handmade stuff—each lemon squeezed and drained of juice carefully, sugar and ice all stirred together in a white jug. Back then days were hotter, longer, they meant something else and summer was a season that lasted forever. And when the rain fell, which it always did, it fell down in threads, in lines and loops, and it wrapped around things with a purpose. 

Nobody questioned the rain. 

But Anna said rain was horrible. She said living in a city where it always rained wasn’t remarkable. She said if she wanted rain she’d move to London. She didn’t understand summer rain.

 John sighs and kicks a stone. If she wanted to move to Sydney (or Perth or Brisbane or Adelaide or even Hobart) how could he stop her? But that was the problem—why did it have to be Sydney? Why not Brisbane? If she wanted sun, why not Cairns? Or Perth, if she wanted constant heat? He’d even he happy with Adelaide, but she said Adelaide was boring.

He reaches into his pocket and takes out a ciggy. He lights it, inhaling and exhaling the smoke.

“I’ll do it,” he says. “I’ll move to Sydney and I’ll tan my skin and I’ll wear gold avatars and black thongs and be a cool, beach dad. But I will never give Sydney my heart. I will never let Sydney under my skin. I will always burn for Melbourne.” He taps his cigarette out under his shoe. He is going to tell his wife what she wants to hear. 

He is going to break his own heart.


“Oh John,” Anna says, bundling her arms around his neck. “Oh John, think of the blue skies! The sand! The shells Baby can collect. Oh, this is going to be great! You’re going to love Sydney. It will be better than anything you can imagine! Oh, John! Thank you so much.” She kisses him. 

John wonders what is wrong with St Kilda. Or Rosebud. Frankston. Dromana. Mentone. Brighton. But he doesn’t speak. Suddenly he hopes the baby will never come.

“Sweetie,” he says. But one look at her, hands stomping together, he draws a breath. There is no reasoning with her.

 “Yes John?”

“I … love you,” he says lamely.

“Love ya too. Oh this is going to be great! We can get a place right near the beach. I have friends who live in Mosman—beautiful area, I wonder if we can find something there, Ally says she gets really cheap rent and there’ll be so much for the kids to do and—”

“Kids?” John stares at her.

“Yes, well, after Baby is born I expect we’ll want more, won’t we? I mean, we can’t just have one—”

“But aren’t you getting a bit old? I didn’t … I mean … I thought we’d have just the one.”

“Excuse me?”

“I—er, no, that’s great—more kids would be great.”

“How dare you? Old? Maybe if you hadn’t been so adamant on putting your stupid job first—maybe then I could have kids earlier, did you ever think of that? Well, did ya?” She raises a hand. “No, don’t even bother.”

John watches her go. He spreads a blanket out over the couch and lies down. He can’t get comfortable. From outside the window, city lights gleam. He wonders what it will be like to see the lights of Sydney, to wander through the Royal Sydney Botanic Gardens, to tap onto trains with an Opal card, to ride boats across the harbour, to dine outside the Opera House. He will miss Melbourne trams and Melbourne streets and clunky, sometimes stupid, sometimes perfect Melbourne fashion, and fish and chips on Frankston beach, seagulls digging into his heels, and sunburn on skin from a wintery day.

 I hate Sydney, John thinks irrationally. He bashes his pillow with his palm. Sleeps.

When he wakes Anna is gone. He wonders briefly where she is. He looks out the window. Melbourne is white, grey clouds glittering over everything. The sky is muddy, the tops of trees cast in shadows, birds moving sluggishly ahead. John smiles. 

Melbourne is overcast.

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