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  • The Last Rain
  • Ilana Sichel (bio)

The change began when we found her. That day, of course, he’d remember. She was really just a fetus, squeaking and crying on the edge of the gravel road, her ears were the fluff of two Q-tips, and her face was infant-pink. Her umbilical cord hung off her like a length of twine that God or her mother had forgotten, and her eyelids were sealed into slits. Her fur was still matted with the wetness of the womb. He’d remember that she quieted when he lifted her from the ground.

Field rat? I’d guessed.

Bonsai lamb, he’d suggested.

She fit snugly in the palm of his hand. Her paws were pillow soft and we twiddled her miniscule toes. He looked at me and raised one eyebrow: dog?

I cupped her in my hands as we traveled the darkening roads searching for a veterinarian or a pet store to sell us what we needed and tell us what to do. But his country was on vacation as it marked its sixtieth year. Village lights twinkled quietly in the settling Galilee dark, so we mixed up formula as the internet told us: ten ounces of goat’s milk and the yolk of one egg, one cup of yogurt and a few spoons of sugar, and we hovered over the stainless steel island in his friend’s kitchen and forced it into the little thing’s mouth with a dropper. She screwed up her face and refused to swallow an ounce.

We placed her in a box with a blanket. Later we would call it a miracle that she survived that first cold night. On the other side of the wall we lay beside each other. We’d been seeing each other two months and that night was the first that we did not make love. That he must remember. How could he forget?

She squeaked through the dark. Pathetic sounds; crying for her mother and the milk she’d never know. A storm rolled in from Lebanon: claps of thunder and magnificent lightning flashed outside the window and I [End Page 160] imagined our ark was sinking. The little creature cried out from the next room, and Uriel left to check on her.

I thought it was too late for rain, I whispered when he returned. It was the eighth of May.

Not here in the North, he answered, and spooned his body around mine. Though, he added, this might be the last.

He’d said the same thing about the downpour two months earlier, on the night that we began. He remembers—he has to—the night that we began. He’s older, I’d been telling a friend at dinner, confessing my infatuation. He’s an artist. I told her how we’d met a week earlier, the day after I stepped off the plane from New York, how he’d invited mutual friends to the museum and we’d all gone together, but that Uriel and I had wandered the exhibit alone. He’s in his late thirties, I’d been telling her, at the youngest—maybe even forty. Just at that moment, Uriel appeared at the restaurant’s door. We glimpsed each other as he stood there, and he raised his eyebrows in surprise.

I blushed and regretted my outfit: a skirt too long and a shirt too loose. I was optimistic enough to regret my choice of bra.

My friend and I finished shortly after, and then Uriel gestured me to join him. He let his eyes linger on mine.

For Jerusalem, he said, their sushi is halfway decent.

His lips hardly moved when he spoke. I sat uneasily, my legs constantly shifting. We noted the poor selection coming through the speakers, though what it was even I can’t remember. We spoke about music, about proficiency versus passion, of the fantasy of the musician who pours her soul into an instrument, for whom the instrument is not an obstruction but an aid. We leaned forward and we whispered. He told me of his nephew who could fingerpick guitar strings but never really soar. His...