The streets of the Project were steaming in the blaze of the scalding afternoon sun. A few children quarreled listlessly on fire escapes on the shaded sides of the red brick buildings. More small faces could be seen at almost every open window. You could stand in front of any entrance and hear a half-dozen different babies crying. There was no escape from the merciless heat, and no one bothered to try anymore.
In Row House #10, apartment 12C, an old woman lay dieing. Her daughter-in-law tried to ease her suffering with a cloth dipped in tepid water, and a little boy of about five years stood near the bed fanning his grandmother's damp face with a folded newspaper. Across the hall the voices of a man and woman were raised in anger over the wail of a new-born infant. Misery was the order of the day.
Suddenly the little boy stopped the rhythmical movement of the newspaper. "I heard thunder, Mama", he whispered hopefully. The young woman shook her head. "I don't think so, son.", she replied. The boy switched the paper from right to left hand and resumed his task. "If it would rain, Granny would feel better, wouldn't she, Mama?" "I don't think so, son.", was the hopeless response once again.
Even as the young woman spoke, the harsh light from a southern window dimmed and a frayed curtain hem swayed slightly. "It's getting cloudy! I can tell!" The boy was excited now, and his mother glanced with a small grain of hope toward the open window. Even the old woman on the bed seemed to sense a change in the atmosphere, slowly opening her eyes and appearing to listen intently.
The rumble came again, closer and more distinct. "Hot dog!", the boy crowed, dropping the paper on the bed and running to the window. He thrust his hand out as far as he could reach. "I felt a drop of rain, Mama, I did!" And without further warning the rain was pelting down on they boy's hand and arm, the huge drops hitting his bare skin almost hard enough to hurt him. He was eagerly hanging out the window now from the waist up, turning his face heavenward with mouth agape, like a baby bird, joyful to receive the offering of the gods.
His mother leaped across the room in one stride and grabbed the back of his shirt. "Son, be careful! This is the third floor! If you fall from that window you won't live to see another thunderstorm."
But even as she held onto him and scolded, she was leaning out beside him, as eager as he to let the welcome rain soak her hair and face. She wasn't much more than a child herself.
Then, remembering the woman on the bed, she pulled the protesting boy back into the room with her and turned. The old woman was gone and the skies over the Project wept in relief.