Kumbeeyah

Diane Payne

When the rain first started falling, everyone from coast to coast felt a sense of relief, the summer had been unusually warm, the rain a welcome relief, there were the Umbrella People who loved the chore of anchoring the umbrella against impossible wind, the Gore-Tex Parka People eager to test their rain gear, the Joggers who didn’t give a rat’s ass about rain, and the Bikers who found the rain to be a bit tiresome; but then the rain didn’t stop, first the kids went outside with their fishing poles, they stood along the drain ditches reeling in fish after fish, This is fucking amazing! they’d shout to each other, I’m not cleaning your damn fish, an older sour puss sibling would yell to no one in particular, because the rain was falling so hard, most words just swirled around and everyone just nodded their heads, figuring they were saying something mundane like: Wonder when this rain will end, and they’d mumble something foolish in return, like: You’ve always been a good friend, because, as the rain kept dropping, and the streets and lakes kept flooding, the Doomsayers were certain the End was near, and kept venturing out in the rain to ask anyone who would listen: If you died right this minute, do you know if you’d go to heaven or hell? and the Umbrella People would try to move their umbrellas so the wind wouldn’t cause the umbrellas to poke their eyes out, and some would lean over and say: I don’t need to buy anything; I’m not even sure what it was you said you’re trying to sell, and the Parka People would stand still a minute, then say: I’ve got friends going both places, so I don’t really care where I end up, and the weirdest thing of all, was somehow, that phrase became a song of sorts: I’ve got friends going both places, I’ll be happy to see their faces, la la la, and they’d sing it to the tune of “Kumbayah” that sounded like a scratchy 45 skipping on a turntable, and not many people knew about 45s or turntables anymore, except for college-aged kids trying to be hipsters, and the Doomsayers vaguely remembered singing “Kumbayah” at camp, and seemed relieved to finally hear the lyrics, since the skips and scratches gave them plenty of time to get the words right, and they wondered about Both Places and all the Faces and pondered if Anyone ever intended to Come By Here; yet, the strangest thing about all the rain was that the bees started emerging, the soggy hives filled with bees; after years of decline, the bees returned with a vengeance, but the crops were flooded, and the bees swarmed with a crazed hunger looking for plants, and the joggers would duck onto the ground when a swarm crossed their paths, and they’d make jokes about how this was so Hitchcockian, and the literary types would say they were being so cliché, then they’d burst into hysterical laughter because everything was so damn flooded and the bees returned: Kumbeeyah, my bees, Kumbeeyah, the call and response the bees longed to hear filled the air, Kumbeeyah, my bees, Kumbeeyah.

Author Portrait

Diane Payne is the author of Burning Tulips (Red Hen Press) and has been published in hundreds of magazines, most recently including publications in: The Tishman Review, Storm Cellar Quarterly, Split Rock Review, Cleaver Magazine, and numerous others. Diane is the MFA Director at University of Arkansas, where she is also faculty advisor of Gravel Magazine and Foliate Oak Literary Journal.