She runs towards the shed, head bowed from the rain, elephant slippers squelching in the mud bath their garden has become. One Christmas present, ruined. Five metres from the kitchen door and she is sodden, shivering. “Darling!”
One husband, lost.
It had been sweet, in the beginning. An empty Ribena bottle after the boys’ Sunday tea, cut in half with the top inverted inside the bottom. “Let Gramps do the scissors,” he said. She watched, smiling, as he and Jav marked centimetres up the side in waterproof pen. They wedged the device between a pair of mossy granite penguins on the patio so it wouldn’t blow over. “Hurry up and rain!” Ash yelled at the September sky.
It rained. 1cm. 3.5cm. 4.5cm. After a storm: 6cm. The boys lost interest but he didn’t. He checked the gauge every day, twice or thrice, recording his findings in that ridiculous notebook: Mickey kissing Minnie. “Getting worse,” he muttered. “I need to go to B&Q.”
Soon the hammering rain was accompanied by ceaseless hammering in the shed. She lured him to dinner with his favourites: toad-in-the-hole, chocolate mousse. He emerged with splinters in his fingers and sawdust on his boots, dismissing her questions with a shake of his head. “You’ll know soon enough.”
7cm. 8.5cm. 10cm. Unprecedented, said the Met Office. Apocalyptic, said the Daily Mail.
She’s just found the letter. From an admin assistant at the Zoological Society of London: “Thank you for your letter and inventory, which I very much enjoyed reading with the requisite pinch of salt. To respond in the same spirit, I’m delighted to tell you that the pairs of …”
“DARLING!” She beats at the shed door, her tears hot in contrast to the rain. “Please talk to me.”