"It was Almost Dark Before the Rain Began" By John Gower


It was almost dark before the rain began. Usually Roberto would sleep in his tent but not tonight. Big Red got mad when Roberto gulped the last of the Thunderbird and he made long cuts to the top of the tent. Now whenever Roberto sees Big Red on the street he looks for something hard or sharp in case he wants to talk about the Thunderbird again.

Roberto hurries to the Salvation Army. His friend Billy works there and even though he is a little late Billy will let him in.

It used to bother Roberto the way Billy forced him to say the Lord’s Prayer with the other men. But one night when Roberto was alone looking up at the stars through the rips in his tent the Lord’s Prayer rolled round and round in his head; Our Father, which art in heaven, hollowed be thy name;” and also the part about forgiving trespasses, well, it felt okay that night. Then he began to think of the men at the Salvation Army like a sort of primitive tribe gathered around a camp-fire, each of the men looking up at the faraway stars just like he was doing in the tent and together they’d be praying and hoping that their sad, hard lives might begin to change for the better. Hollowed be thy name, meant to Roberto that there was something so big and so strange that to name it would surely make it smaller than it was. And these men, and him, they were all a part of this gigantic swirling thing. Prayer was just a way to acknowledge the enormity of it all. After that night he began to pray with the other men and not feel bad about it.

Tonight, Roberto is grateful to be out of the rain. He’s not thinking of Big Red, and it invigorates him when Billy leads the prayer. Later he helps Billy clean up the kitchen, after that he plays some cards. Something about tonight feels like a big green pasture set before him. He begins to think maybe, maybe tomorrow morning he’ll go to the Early Risers AA meeting.

After a hot shower Roberto falls asleep. In his dream he is twelve or so, he was with his parents on a street corner but then they were gone. He wants to leave the corner and look for them but he’s afraid. He begins to float away, and he doesn’t want to go, he swims in the air trying to get back, but the wind is pulling him away. He wakes up and the room is crowded with sleeping men. He misses seeing the stars through the roof of his tent.

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