“If you could choose, would you want it to rain all the time or shine all the time?”
I draw hopscotch squares on the concrete sidewalk in front of grandma’s house. Since my sister’s two years older, she always talks to me in questions, trying to trip me up and make her seem smarter. So I just throw questions back to let Julia know I’m smart too.
“Can I turn off the rain when I want to?”
“Nope, you gotta carry an umbrella. “
“Can I play in the rain on summer days when it’s so hot my hair’s all sweaty?”
“Yep, but only in the backyard and you gotta wear your swimsuit. No running naked like we do under the hose. “
“Can I tell the sun to go behind the clouds?”
“Nope, you can’t tell the sun to do anything. He’s bigger and stronger than anybody except God.”
“Can I ask the sun not to melt the snow?”
“Nope, you can’t ask the sun any questions. He has too much to do to fool with a dumb girl.”
“Well, smartie pants, I’d rather have rain and sun together to heat me up and cool me off at the same time.”
“Yeah, well that means the devil’s beatin’ his wife!”
“That means what? “ I yell, scratching a one and zero in the top square.
“You heard me. The devil’s beatin’ his wife.”
“I don’t believe you. The devil’s not married to begin with.”
“Yeah he is. They just never tell us about it in Sunday school. His wife looks just like my first-grade teacher. A long pointed nose with glasses and she smells like chicken poop. They say she fries bad girls in hot grease and then stuffs them in a barrel.”
“If he has a wife, why does he beat her?”
“Because the devil ‘s the meanest man in the world and beats up anybody he wants to just like the baddest boy in school. “
Ever since Halloween, Julia tries to scare me with stories of mean people who like to kidnap and torture kids. “You’re telling a fib,” I scream at her.
“If you don’t believe me, go ask grandma. “
So we leave the sidewalk and run into the house. Grandma’s in the kitchen, snapping beans at the sink and looking out the window at butterflies around the crepe myrtles. She knows things we don’t. She says flowers are named after girls who smell sweet and act sweet. That butterflies are the spirits of loved ones in heaven. “Grandma, does the devil have a wife?” I blurt out before Julia can open her mouth. Just because she’s older doesn’t make her smarter and she can’t scare me now with grandma near.
“Well, hon, I don’t know about that though I kinda doubt it. He’s way too mean and ornery for any woman to put up with, no matter how irritating she is.”
“What about Mr. Wells? You said he was mean as a snake. He has a wife.”
“Yeah, but he wasn’t always mean. Plus he was good-looking. A wife will forgive a heap of sins from a good-looking husband.”
“Do you think the devil ever looked good?”
“Absolutely never. I know it for a fact. But I’ve always heard tell that, if you see sunshine through rain, the devil’s beatin’ his wife. And who can argue with what my own grandmamma told me when I was your age. She always said ‘rain flickers like Christmas lights when it falls through God’s sunshine.’ Girls, go look out the back door! “
Raindrops sparkle in the sun. Behind them a yellow and red rainbow reaches from the sidewalk to the other side of the backyard, and I know my grandma is the smartest and sweetest person on earth and my sister will never be a flower!
Note: This children's story, based on a folk expression, first sppeared online in _Penwomanship_, linked in the header.