Issue 108, Fall 1988
One summer evening at about midnight a man wearing eye-glasses and a light-blue shirt made his way through the crowded lobby of a movie theater and stepped outside with a look of dismay. The marquee was hung with a crackling curtain of rain. Groups of animated women stood in the brightness of the marquee shelter, while now and then a husband or boyfriend hunched his shoulders and marched into the downpour to bring the car around. Two plump girls in tight white shorts and denim jackets stood bent together at the edge of the rain, reaching out their fingers, whispering, giggling into the backs of their hands, as if the storm were a wild and erotic joke—and all at once they pulled their jackets over their heads and ran off into the rain like two upright turtles. A sudden flash of lightning revealed black thunderclouds in a lavender sky.
Mr. Porter jingled the car keys in his pocket and looked down with a frown at his new black shoes. It was just his luck. He was wearing tan cotton pants, and the sleeves of his light-blue shirt were turned back neatly twice. With an irritable glance at his watch he walked to one end of the marquee shelter, where the dry pale sidewalk became dark hissing wet. He reached out a palm, but to his surprise he felt no rain. He placed the tips of his shoes on the line of wetness, and bending ;forward at the waist, stretched out his arm farther and farther until he rose on his toes. A shot rang out. Mr. Porter began to thrash the air with both arms as if he were teetering on the edge of a cliff.
As the thunder died away Mr. Porter regained his balance. He adjusted his eyeglasses, looked contemptuously at a grinning couple, and walked to a dark corner beside the ticket booth, where he stood with his back to a wall of glass-covered coming attractions. One showed a red-headed woman in a transparent green nightgown standing before an open door with her hands pressed to her cheeks and her mouth wide open. Mr. Porter folded his arms across his stomach. He leaned one shoulder against the ticket booth, crossed his legs so that one shoe balanced on its toe, and resolved to wait out the rain.
Soon the crowd had vanished but the rain remained. On the polished tar a traffic light threw rippling green and red reflections that mingled with the blinking lemon swirls of the marquee lights. The precise blue letters of a neon sign over a hard-ware store appeared in the street as an azure blur. Rain hissed on the street, drummed on car tops, made a sound like flung pebbles against a passing umbrella. It blew along the street in waves of mist. “Nice weather,” said a voice. Mr. Porter started. Beside him stood a large woman who seemed to have sprung from one of the colorful coming attractions. Her rain-soaked orange hair was brown at the roots, her black eyebrows dripped down in wavy dark lines, the aquamarine of her eye-lids flowed from the corners of her eyes. Rouge-colored drops rolled down her cheeks and dripped from her shining jaw. Mr. Porter nodded and glanced about. The marquee shelter was deserted except for a solitary figure in a tan trenchcoat who stood with his back to Mr. Porter and clasped in pink hands a tightly furled black umbrella with a silver point. “It’s getting late,” Mr. Porter said in a low voice barely above a whisper, and then he pushed against the ticket booth with his shoulder and straightened up and stepped briskly away, taking a deep breath and lowering his head as he approached the loud, dark cement.