Upon returning to her basement suite from the supermarket, Rain made banana muffins. Then she put the muffins into a packsack, along with a can of Coke and a picnic blanket. Rain put on the packsack and picked up the battleaxe. Then she walked to Deer Lake Park.
Rain laid out the picnic blanket carefully without any wrinkles. Then she swung the battleaxe over her head and deep into the ground beside the blanket. The handle pointed to the sky at a 45-degree angle. Rain sat on the blanket and ate muffins.
“The desert made me bald,” Rain’s grandfather would say. “Most men would have died in that heat. I just went bald.”
Rain’s grandfather had a photo of himself taken by the foreign surveyors as he approached their camp. “Those fools should have been driving out to rescue me instead of taking photos,” he said, “but at least they gave me a copy.”
Rain’s grandfather had crossed a section of the Sahara on foot after his truck broke down on the way to inspect his natural gas fields. He wouldn’t have survived had he not been surrounded by a thunderstorm shortly after leaving the truck, which formed small pools of water on the ground. The only things he took from the truck were a plastic bag and a long pipe. He tied the bag tight over the end of the pipe and then filled the pipe with water from the pools.
“Even after I’d drank every drop out of that pipe, I dragged it with me,” he told Rain. “It saved my life, but it was bloody heavy after three days of walking. When I was dragging that pipe, it felt like I was dragging the whole desert with me.”
“The whole story is obviously a myth,” said Rain’s mother. “He’s got people who take care of his wells over there for him. He’s never even been to the Sahara.”
But Rain’s grandfather had the photo. It was undeniably him, walking toward the camera, head wrapped in a dirtied jacket, legs distorted by the rising heat of the desert, and right hand grasping a long metal pipe, the end of the pipe dragging through the sand behind him.
Rain sat on the exact centre of her picnic blanket. She had spent the last year under her hoodie, and, whenever possible, nodding or shaking her head rather than speaking. But this was her birthday. Rain smiled when strangers approached her to ask about the battleaxe. “It’s a Halbarren Double-bladed Dragon-mage Axe, limited edition,” she told them. “What’s your name?”
“That’s amazing,” they all said. “Can you do whole sentences?”
Rain spoke with many people in the park. She even shared her banana muffins. The evening wind blew soft under her t-shirt. She opened her eyes as wide as possible to feel the wind around the edges of her eyeballs. The words of many strangers poured over her head and body. They seeped deep into her pores. They collected in cold pools in her shoes. When the sun set behind the blade of her battleaxe, Rain pulled the battleaxe out of the ground and began walking home.
Rain had to cross the mall parking lot on her way home. The empty expanse of concrete shimmered with the last of the summer day’s heat. Exhausted from an evening of conversation, Rain crossed the parking lot, her head covered in a fleece hood, legs hot in the rising heat, and right hand grasping the battleaxe, the handle dragging across the concrete. Her shoulder and arm ached with the weight of the battleaxe. It felt like she was dragging the whole city behind her.
She stared at the ground and thought about the coming year. She would make it through, she and her battleaxe. She would keep her head down and keep walking. “Keep walking,” she said out loud to herself. “a-e-e-g-i-k-k-l-n-p-w.” One foot after the other, one step of her daily routine after the other, she would keep doing things in order, spelling words in order, keep her hand to the wall and turn left at every option, and eventually something would change.