“Aw. Look at that one!”
I pointed up and to my left. Danny tilted his head, resting it against my shoulder. We were lying on our backs amid green grass and yellow dandelions. Off to our right, a dog chased a ball casually thrown by its bored owner. Past our bare feet, three little girls ran in circles, deep into some important childhood game we would never understand. We were passing the afternoon drinking wine, eating crackers and watching clouds in the park.
“That one.” He followed my finger. “The one that looks sad.”
“Oh my gosh! It does look sad!”
“It’s the saddest cloud ever!”
“The poor thing!”
“I wonder why it’s so sad.”
“Don’t be sad, cloud!” He yelled to the sky. “We still love you!”
We giggled. The sun, the wine, the company—all came together to make for a perfect afternoon. I said as much to Danny.
We gazed up into the azure sky, watching the sad cloud dejectedly float by. It was shaped like the head of a small child, round and doughy. The darker patches that formed the eyes were half-closed. The mouth, nothing more than a streak of gray among the white of the rest of the cloud, was turned down as if it was holding back sobs. It was so striking that there was no debate over what it looked like. Not like our epic argument earlier about whether a cloud looked more like a T-Rex or a dragon. This one could be nothing but a sad little cloud.
“If it starts crying, will it rain on us?” I asked.
“Probably. Hey! Maybe that’s where rain comes from! Sad clouds.”
“I always thought it was bird spit as a kid.”
He laughed, brushing his hand against my arm.
“Very true.” I smiled, turning towards him. He smiled back that easy smile of his that made me fall in love with him every time.
“Tell me a story about the saddest cloud,” he whispered, holding my gaze.
“Sure. You like to tell stories. Tell me why that cloud is so sad.”
“Hmm.” I looked up again. The saddest cloud had barely moved. Other clouds floated past, leaving it behind, alone and lonely in the vast blue sky.
“Well, his name is Etienne—“
“So he came all the way here from France?”
“What? No, silly.”
“He’s from Quebec.”
Danny laughed and rested his head on my shoulder again, looking up with me.
“Ok, Etienne the sad cloud from Quebec. Continue.”
“Thank you. So Etienne, he wasn’t always so sad.”
“No. In fact, he was a happy little cloud. Etienne spent his days floating above the world with his mom and dad and sister, enjoying the beautiful Canadian countryside below them and the wide-open skies all around them. As long as he could remember, he was surrounded by his loving family and the beautiful world. The days lasted an eternity and the nights were spent nuzzled against his mom and dad and sister peacefully bobbing in the breeze.
“But then one day, the Thunderbullies darkened the horizon. His mom and dad, seeing the dark, roiling mass of clouds, pushed Etienne and his sister in front of them, hurrying them away from the storm that rolled towards them. Etienne looked behind him and saw a black wall fast approaching. He heard a tremendous noise that shook the world below. Then, a bright flash of light erupted from the center of the dark wall, lancing from one Thunderbully to another. The dark clouds laughed as their lightning arced around them, sizzling smaller clouds. Etienne and his family tried to get away, but they were made for lazily floating across the sky, not for racing. The Thunderbullies overtook them. Wind whipped around them, separating Etienne from his family. He spun around and around, getting dizzy and disorientated. He heard his sister scream over the lightning and thunder. Huge pellets of rain battered him, tearing off bits of his fluffy body.
“He was thrown this way and that, tumbling around and around, assaulted on all sides by wind and rain and lightning. The Thunderbullies laughed as they rolled over him. Etienne closed his eyes against the storm, his tears lost among the heavy rain that tore through him.
“Finally, the Thunderbullies moved past, leaving him dazed, beaten and barely able to hold himself together. He hung in the sky for the longest time, waiting for another attack. It was many hours later when he finally opened his eyes. All around him, wisps of former clouds surrounded him. Thin and almost transparent, these wisps stretched across the sky, the last remnants of his friends. He looked around frantically for his family but couldn’t find them. Desperate, he asked any cloud in the area, but they could barely acknowledge him, battered as they were by the storm.
“Etienne looked at the receding wall of thunder and lightning. His family wasn’t among the broken survivors. But maybe they were still in the grasp of the Thunderbullies. Despite his injuries, Etienne took off in pursuit of the storm. Throughout the day, throughout the night, he followed. The storm was too fast though and by morning, Etienne couldn’t see the Thunderbullies anymore, only the wispy, broken clouds they left in their wake. But he didn’t give up. He kept going.
“And so now,” I said, gently playing with the hair behind Danny’s ear, “here he is, still looking for his family.”
“That,” he said, looking at me deeply, “was the saddest story about a cloud I’ve ever heard.”
I shrugged, enjoying the feeling of our shoulders rubbing together. “A sad story for a sad cloud.”
“We love you,” Danny whispered to Etienne. “I hope you find your family.”
I reached down and took his hand in mine, giving it a gentle squeeze, knowing I had found mine.