The Rain Dance – by Gina Beltran-Gallegos

 

HV Beach 2

We had just gotten back from Happy Valley where we spent all morning swimming. It was during that lull in the afternoon between lunch and merienda when we were supposed to be taking our siestas.  We were too old for siestas or so we thought, all the little ones were fast asleep and so was our Mom who was probably just tired from having to play judge and jury for us kids all day long. She was probably just having a fitful siesta full of tiresome dreams which rang with sounds of “Mommy o’s, he keeps teasing me. Make him stop!” And her usual response of “Cheton, para de rabiarles”.

 

It was just us older kids and we were having a serious and furious whispered discussion about whether American Indians really did make it rain after dancing a rain dance.  I looked around at my cousins’ faces and thought to myself. ‘Oh no, they are totally falling for Cheton’s balderdash.’ As usual my older brother with his gift of gab was being the great joker and had most of us halfway believing that there was some merit to this particular tall tale. Being his sister and having to deal with him all the time had equipped me with a super shield that almost made me immune to his tricks. The key word being “almost”, he could still fool me if he put his whole mind to it and if he caught me with my super x-ray shields down. This afternoon would have turned out to be one of those rare times that he would have pulled the wool over my eyes if he had just kept his cool and not gotten too excited.

 

Rain Clouds

“That’s a myth. You can’t really make it rain with a dumb rain dance.” I said scoffing at the idea. “I am nine years old and I no longer believe in fairy tales or myths.” I turned away and jumped on a bed and studied my cousin Cachita who seemed to be so engrossed in a pocketbook that she was oblivious to the whole discussion going on. I almost envied her that ability of complete detachment from the seemingly pointless discussion we were having. My cousin Peter had this slight smile on his face and I couldn’t figure out whether he truly believed my brother or he was in on it and just playing along. It didn’t matter to me, my girl cousins, Amaya and Vicky were firmly in my corner and I knew that if we could get Cachita to focus on the discussion she would be too. It wasn’t because they were followers either as neither Amaya or Vicky was what you would classify a follower. They had their own minds and they had intelligent ones that could see through Cheton’s joker ways.

 

I could see that all the younger boys had totally bought into Cheton’s tomfoolery and were gazing up to him with eyes full of total wonder and they were almost fanatical in their belief of every word he uttered. My brothers, JJ, Chuck and even Luisito, my cousins, Paul, Marty and Jimmy Boy, they all had this glazed look on their faces that told me they would follow Cheton off the side of the mountain if he led them there. “Ton, prove it to us.” Peter suddenly piped in his eyes sparkling with a deviltry I frankly did not trust. Something in Peter’s voice must have given him away as Cachita suddenly turned her attention to him. She was looking at him suspiciously and I knew right there and then that something was indeed not quite right with this picture. Peter, a very glib fellow himself, was almost as good at fooling people as Cheton was. In fact, the only one capable of seeing through his impish ways would be Cachita who for some reason Peter could not lie to. He would totally be unable to dissemble if Cachita were to question him closely. “A dare, a dare.” Cheton quickly jumped up and shouted when he noticed Cachita start to focus on Peter. “A dare, a dare.” His faithful minions started to copy him by yelling at the top of their lungs.
“Shhhh, quiet, you dummies, do you want Mom and Gaby to wake up? Worse, do you want Sayong to come in here and start whopping us?” Cheton cautioned as we all hurriedly started to quiet down the younger kids. We certainly did not want Old Sayong (our Nanny) to get a whiff of the fact that we were wide awake and not resting like we should have been.  “You don’t want her alerting Delpha to your whereabouts, Marty.” I reminded Marty that Delpha had been searching for Vicky and him for their siestas. That they were not yet considered old enough for siestas to be voluntary.  Those words were enough for Vicky to turn to her younger brother, cuff him on the ear and to get him to hush up in a hurry.  

When all had quieted down, Cheton turned to us and with a solemn and serious face said that he would test out his theory. “I am going to sneak out there and do a rain dance and it is going to rain.” He declared to all of us as he pointed out the window to the rear of our house which was covered with coconut trees for as far as our eyes could see. He pointed to the square of cement where some of the farm machinery lay.  He saluted us and amidst some very silent giggling he snuck out. The giggling started up again as we saw him outside dancing his version of a rain dance and singing at the top of his lungs. “Heyaaah, heyaah, boom shakalaka….” Cheton sang and danced frantically until all of a sudden we heard a loud boom of thunder and the heavens opened up and it started to pour buckets of water.  “It worked, it worked…” Peter shouted as he pumped his arm victoriously at Cheton. Cheton who was now grinning like a loon waved back and started to dance even more furiously as the usual summer afternoon monsoon rain washed down on him drenching him completely. Suddenly Cheton slipped on a patch of engine oil and was suddenly impaled on the tractors blades. I remember seeing his back awash with red as he got himself up and turned towards the tractor’s blades. “Oh my God, he is bleeding. Get Mom!!!!” I grabbed my brother JJ and yelled in his ear. He just shook me off and nodded calmly as he hurriedly left the room to rouse our Mother.

Our Mom suddenly appeared next to Cheton and started to drag him with her. She turned to Sayong and asked her to send for the driver so Cheton could be driven to the hospital. She was informed by the old Nanny that the driver was not around that he was on loan to one of my Aunts or Uncles and that he wouldn’t be back until this evening. In the meantime, Cheton was still bleeding buckets and starting to look a little pale despite his silent “I told you so’s” mouthing the words silently so our Mom wouldn’t hear him. My Mom looking very harried at this point suddenly looked like she had reached a decision. “Listen up, everyone, pile into the pickup truck and I will drive us to the hospital”. She announced to us and I noted with satisfaction that those words actually seemed to scare the hell out of my brother, Cheton. For my Mom never drove and as far as we knew did not know how to, Oh my God, my glee and satisfaction at seeing fear on my brother’s face were very short lived as I realized that she meant all of us had to go in the pickup truck and ride with her driving. “Mom, I hate to remind you but you cannot drive.” I finally spoke up. “Don’t be ridiculous of course I can drive, I just choose not too.” She reassured us and herded most of us into the pickup truck. I noticed that we were missing Vicky and Marty who had managed to sneak away when they were spotted by their Yaya, Delfa.

 

So Mom gets behind the wheel and all of us do the sign of the cross as she turns the key and cranks up the engine. She put the gears on first gear and started driving like a bat out of hell much to the delight of my totally oblivious younger brothers and cousins who had total faith in her driving abilities. The rest of us, Cheton included sat very quietly, our knuckles white with fear as we gripped anything we could get a hold on inside that red Chevy pick-up truck that was hitting every pothole on the road. My Mom was driving on pure adrenaline one of her chicks was hurt and that was all that mattered to her at the time.  We went up the mountain to the clinic that the logging company had. It was very scary how my Mom was taking in the hairpin curves and driving like she was Mario Andretti instead of a woman lugging at least 10 kids of varying ages along with her.  We finally reached our destination in one piece much to our relief and Cheton was rushed into the emergency room to be stitched up.

 

After Cheton was all stitched up and no longer bleeding and he was proudly regaling us that he had received twenty-two stitches and hadn’t shed a tear while they were sewing him up, we headed back towards our truck when we noticed that our Mom was not following and that she was still sitting on the chair with her head between her legs.  “I am ready, Mom let’s go home,” Cheton called out to her. She looked up and told us that we had to wait as she had asked the manager of the logging company to supply us with a driver as there was no way she was driving back down that mountain. As we waited, the discussion about whether the Rain Dance had actually worked came up once more. “You have your proof, Gina. It rained buckets after I did that dance.” Cheton stated unequivocally, his face seriously trying to stay serious. “I guess the fact that we are in the middle of the Monsoon season and that it rains here every afternoon had nothing to do with it, huh?” I retorted having had all that time in the clinic’s waiting room to think and reflect on the events that occurred that afternoon. “Well, how do you explain the rain starting right as I started to do the rain dance?” Cheton asked and I thought to myself that I really couldn’t. It had to be one heck of a coincidence for that to happen or maybe it really was his Indian Rain Dance after all.

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5 Responses to “The Rain Dance – by Gina Beltran-Gallegos”

  1. What a great memory you guys have! I should have unstuck my nose from those books more often then I would have stories to tell also. But you’re right though Gins, unfortunately for those two I could always smell bullshit a mile away especially if either Peter or Cheton was shovelling it. But in fairness to them, they are truly good at it,so bow gid ko.

  2. Gina, I was so into this like it was a chapter out of Little Women or Little Men. You ARE our Louisa May Parker. This is recommended reading for feeling young again. I have once again been brought back to the age where everything seemed like an adventure.

    Chetons injury became the wound that never healed. “Huckleberry Finn” could not stay away from the water long enough for the stitches to mend properly. The cut healed open.

  3. I thought that wound was due to the ‘Suffering for Jesus’ effect; what say you Cheton?

  4. J, remember the wound that never heals and the eggs that never hatch?

  5. The summer rains that daily drenched the inland Totong area occurred like clockwork between 2:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon. The grayest Cumulonimbus clouds would enchroach from the East, enveloping the surrounding coconut plantation in an ominous gloom. Then, as it turned darkest, the opening salvo of a solitary lightining strike momentarily illumed all in that unerving, silver-electric light that made our stomaches tighten in anxious anticipation of the deafening explosion that followed a split second later.

    This display of nature’s awesome power was the precursor to the torrential downpour that followed.

    A nature and science buff, I thoroughly delighted in the deluge. With keen fascination at the storm’s build-up, I observed a phenomenon that could be used to predict when the first lightning strike might occur. While not foolproof, it made for an unerring degree of accuracy.

    An impending thunderstorm, apparently, blankets an area in an electric field. This electric field is actually discernible—the air thickens with electricity causing a tingling sensation as your finer hairs lift from the build-up of static charges. It is then, at some point between 30 seconds to a minute of this palpable accretion, that all hell breaks loose, as a bolt of electricity, 18,000 degrees F hot, spawns then spends itself in the blink of an eye.

    [ By chance, I had experienced this phenomenon again many years ago in Orlando, Florida. A wicked thunderstorm had snuck-up on our Disney resort-hotel, cutting short cocktails as the lakeside bar battened-down its hatches and everyone scurried for cover. Foolishly not being impressed with the danger, I lingered outside and shortly felt the same unmistakable electrical field and static build-up that culminated in an explosive lightning strike (that nearly knocked me off my feet) with the rain trailing right behind it. ]

    Counting down whilst sensing this field intensifying about you, one could time a rain dance so as to impress (if not mystify) the most ardent of disbelievers!

    This was the secret of the Rain Dance.

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