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Hamelin, PA


Harry Buschman

“Look at them! Like monkeys let out of a cage.” Mrs. Scruggs dried the final cup and hung it on the nail under the kitchen cabinet. The sun had finally come out after three solid weeks of rain. Since school vacation began every boy and girl in Hamelin had been housebound.

Mrs. Scruggs, the Town Councilman’s wife, explained the miraculous event that occurred in Hamelin today by beginning, “Do you know what it’s like havin’ three kids trackin’ in mud all day? It’s ‘Gee Ma, there’s nuthin’ t’do, or, we’re bored Ma, kin we go to the movies?’ I tell you, Me and my hubby prayed every night fer that rain t’stop, or if not, that the school would leastways open up again and take the kids back.”

After the third week, somebody remarked that the town clown, Dan Piper, could make the rain stop. The Town Council authorized Barney Scruggs to locate him and Barney found him late this afternoon drinking in the Hamelin Manor Saloon. Dan Piper, was always dressed like a clown in red overalls and a yellow hat. He was sitting quietly by himself looking outside at the rain running down the dirty window with a knowing smile on his weather-beaten face.

“Thought I’d find y’here, Dan.” Barney Scruggs said.

“Yep, ain’t much else t’do in Hamelin when it rains.”

Scruggs signaled to the bartender to bring Dan another drink, then he measured his words slowly and carefully, “Dan, is there any truth to the rumor that you have a way with the weather?”

“Oh, I can’t make tornados or hailstones much bigger’n a golf ball, but they’s some things I kin do.” He raised his newly filled glass to Councilman Scruggs and said quietly, “I kin make this rain go away, fr’instance – jest like that.”

“How kin y’do somethin’ like that?”

Dan Piper drained his glass and winked knowingly. “That’d be tellin’ Scruggs, and I’m not tellin’.”

By now the entire Town Council had gathered around the two men. The Assistant Treasurer nudged Barney and said, “Ask him. Ask him.”

“How much would’ja charge fer doin’ somethin’ like that?” Barney asked. “I mean if the whole town chipped in, could’ja give us a special price?”

Dan put his empty glass on the counter and stared at the ceiling. He hooked his thumbs in the straps of his red suspenders and pursed his lips. “Reckon I could do it fer a thousand bucks, Seein’ as how I’m purty sick of the rain myself.”

The Assistant Treasurer nodded in agreement, and to demonstrate the Council’s good faith, wrote out a check for Dan in the amount of $500 as a down payment right there in the Hamelin Manor Saloon.

Dan examined the check carefully, slipped it in his pocket and slid himself off the stool. He set his yellow hat firmly on his head and stepped out into the driving rain. He reached into the back pocket of his baggy clown’s overalls and withdrew a small flute. He got no further than the chorus of “I’m Singin’ in the Rain” when the sun broke through the clouds and the rain stopped as suddenly as though someone had turned off a faucet.

Before you could say “Jack Robinson,” Mill Street was crawling with children. The women appeared in their doorways with broad smiles on their faces for the first time since school vacation began.

Dan put his flute away and strolled back to the bar, looking to collect the $500 still due him. The Assistant Treasurer, the town elders and Barney Scruggs however had beaten a hasty retreat, figuring that $500 was enough money to stop the rain. “Where’d everybody go?” Dan asked the bartender.

“Took off,” the bartender said. “Soon’s the sun come out, went out the back door.”

“Dan’s face went black with rage,” the bartender later remarked. ”He turned on his heel and walked back out into the street. He took flute out again and commenced to play.”

The bartender half expected the rain to begin again. “But no – instead, the children of the town all gathered about him and together, like a small army, marched off down the road.”

The bartender polished a brandy glass and held it up to the light. “School’s beginnin’ next week. We ‘spect they’ll be back by then.”

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