That Rains May Come by Helen Liptak
Long ago in a far-off land Elizabeta Drominichka lived with her ailing mother on the edge of a starving village. For months rain passed them by as villagers sickened and died, picked off by famine, disease and thirst. Somehow Elizabeta kept herself and her mother alive by sheer force of will.
With her mother failing, her crops wilting and their pigs afflicted with the wasting disease, Elizabeta grew desperate enough to believe the old tale that the first eight drops of water presented by the New Year and gathered in a vial would stave off drought, famine and pestilence. But which eight raindrops are the first? And how to gather them?
Deciding she had nothing to lose by trying to harness the power of the stories, Elizabeta unearthed an old, cracked crystal vial. On the very first day in the new year, she left her small home to search the sky for any clouds that might bring rain. A week went by. Two weeks. Three weeks. The land remained as dry as her teacher’s heart while her mother coughed in her bed and the pigs dwindled to resemble paper cut outs, but Elizabeta persevered. Each night she returned home, exhausted and discouraged, but the following morning after her chores she set out again, receptacle in hand, scouring the skies for any small cloud that might contain eight drops of rain. Alas, it continued fruitless.
The villagers mocked and scorned her pursuit but Elizabeta refused to care. What harm was she doing? What other hope did she have for her beloved mother? She swallowed her sorrow instead of bread so as not to alarm her mother when she fed her the last of their supplies. She kept vigil for the desperately needed raindrops, watching the heavens, staying up late and rising early in her quest for showers. But it was as if the weather, too, made game of her.
One day as Elizibeta ventured outside seeking some sign of precipitation, a stranger rode up on an adorable gray-brown donkey. It was such a merry little beast Elizabeta forgot her trials to laugh with pure pleasure at its twitching ears and soft back. So caught up in admiring the donkey was she, that she hardly noticed the sharp faced lad on its back.
“What do you mean, staring so rudely at me?” the visitor snapped. “Do you scorn me like the rude villagers do?”
Elizabeta stammered her reply, “I-I did not mean to give offense. I was just admiring your steed.”
“That’s alright, then,” he answered. “He is the best donkey in the kingdom.”
“Certainly! The finest one I’ve ever seen.” Elizabeta did not explain that he was the only one she had ever seen.
The young man leapt off his mount, peppering her with questions while the donkey nibbled at the sparse grass. After a bit the he asked about the vial with its stopper. Elizabeta hesitated to try to explain her hopes and fears but the stranger was so persistent and so interested she finally told him her plan to gather the first eight drops of the new year.
“Must they be from here?” he asked.
Elizabeta didn’t know. The prophecy was none too clear on the finer points of geography so when the youth offered to take her with him on the donkey’s back to chase clouds farther away, she dared hope the drops could be from anywhere. With no thought for her own safety, she agreed to go with him to pursue a particularly promising cluster of clouds blowing toward the western border. The little donkey obligingly carried the pair after the darkening skies. The miles passed and the day grew late as they talked and sought the rain, until at last Elizabeta knew she must go home to care for her mother and find something to feed her pigs.
With no raindrops but a heart somewhat lightened by friendship, a sorrowful but determined Elizabeta returned to her house. When she thanked her companion and his donkey, he promised to fetch her again the next day. Each day they chased the promise of rain as the pigs grew thinner and her mother coughed and the crops wilted away to nothing, until one day the lad arrived to find Elizabeta slumped on the cottage step, trying very hard not to cry.
“What is it?” he asked.
“My mother will not last the night, my pigs are so thin, you can see through them and the crops are brown stubble. I have no strength to carry on.”
Her companion gathered her in his arms as tears began to leak down her face. To her amazement, he pushed her away and grabbed her crystal vial, unstoppering it to catch the first eight teardrops that escaped her eyes. Immediately, a gentle benediction of rain began to drop on the crops. The pigs shook off their lethargy to snuffle for mushrooms springing up in the damp. Her mother’s voice, stronger than it had sounded in ages, called out in relief. With a shout of joy Elizabeta jumped up and hugged her friend. Imagine her amazement to find the beggarly fellow changed into a handsome prince and his donkey into a noble steed.
She gasped in shock and stared, speechless.
“I am brother to the storm and cousin to the earth. I have the power to help those who put others first. You have sacrificed and striven, never once asking a thing for yourself. When your mother is well and your pigs fat and your crops ripe, I will return and take you with me to meet my family. Together we will return peace and plenty to our land.”
And they did.
Helen Liptak has written over twenty young adult comedy/dramas and three books. After living in six states and three countries, immersed in middle school culture for more years than she would care to mention, she now weaves her stories in South Carolina.
Cover Design: Amanda Bergloff