Sweat patterns darkened his white shirt along the neckline. Dust stuck to his summer wool suit. A rainmaker who wears a business suit. He stood at the flinty edge of the diminished reservoir. The barren, naked rock walls were bleached and parched, the remaining water glinting in the sun like moving mirrors.
“Are we actually taking this guy seriously?” someone in the crowd said.
The rainmaker held a willow branch in two hands and raised it above his head. The soles of his alligator leather oxfords slipped on the steep, stony bank but he caught himself before he tumbled.
He secured his footing, removed his jacket, and loosened his tie. He raised his branch again and waved his arm like a conductor guiding a silent and invisible orchestra. There were mumbles and snickers from the crowd behind him. The sky remained a flawless blue, horizon to horizon.
“Come on, you fake, make it rain.”
“A charlatan. We’ve been duped by a charlatan.”
The rainmaker began to chant in a language none of the onlookers understood. He waved his willow bow and raised his eyes to the sky and repeated his cryptic words.
“We came all the way out here for this?”
“We should have built the pipeline.”
“We’ll be out of water in a month.”
But then—someone pointed and shouted: “There! Look!”
A cloud had formed. A nimbus. The onlookers gasped. The rainmaker continued conducting and chanting. The meager nimbus grew in layers and layers upon itself, fattening, darkening, towering above them. Soon the cloud was large enough to block the sun and cast a shadow over the rainmaker and his witnesses.
They all fell silent at the first distant rumble of thunder. The clouds continued to darken and move over them. Some of the onlookers retreated a few steps. A sudden, single bolt of lightning struck the rainmaker, lifting him off his feet and hurling him down the rocky reservoir wall where he rolled into the water and floated, face down, arms and legs spread. Everyone stared, some murmured, some held to each other, but no one went after him. His figure slowly rotated in the shallow pool. The rain began, sprinkles, then a gentle patter, then unrelenting torrents that lasted for days.