Entry 1

       Beef blood, I discovered this morning, doesn’t dissolve in the rain. Not for a while, anyway. Eventually, it is washed off the way almost everything is at this time of year, during Kerala’s monsoon. The rain has been relentless these last three weeks–not the leaky-faucet drippings I’m used to in Seattle, but umbrella-annihilating stuff that scoops snakes out of holes and into homes, that smells earth-fresh for the first few minutes, then takes on the fine stench of rotting mangoes, dead cats, and whatnot–good things gone bad.

       But the blood tripping over the steps of the beef shop opposite my parents’ apartment building smells clean. Ribby bulls are slaughtered there early each morning and, going for a walk today, I saw the fluid flow fresh for a second, then become crusty, corded, protuberant. The vadose rush thinned the red edges, chipped at the ceramic slickness, and the steps were suddenly clean. Tomorrow’s beef is tethered opposite the shop–that is to say, in an unused courtyard adjacent to this building, tied to a tree stump, its field of vision dominated by the meat hooks opposite. I see the hooks, too–my room looks right onto the courtyard.

       Rain has taken over more than the landscape. The papers are abuzz, as are such phone lines as are still working. Each visitor has his or her own crisis to report, and each is more than mildly competitive in the telling. “Woke up and found 10 inches of water in my room,” said one. “My mother-in-law spent 24 hours on a treetop,” said another, grateful for it. “Stepped on a dead puppy that had floated into the room,” said a third. (She was so freaked out that she didn’t go to teach today–unbelievably, colleges and schools are still open.) Snake stories abound. The dead-puppy woman made it to her doorway, then found a clutch of kraits (a particularly venomous class of snake) looking in, contemplating a move to higher, drier ground. (She claims they are kraits, anyway, but the rains have made a krait, or two or three or four, of every grass snake and centipede.)

       However, the visits, the hordes of people “dropping by” to chat, haven’t stopped, much to my chagrin. If cars can’t ply–and they can’t in several areas–boats do. Catamarans and paddle-boats are doing brisk business on low-lying streets, and buses, their drivers thrilling in the opportunity to splash one and all, will not be deterred. So the visitors come, and tea must be made and stories told. I have no rain tales of my own, being tucked away on the sixth floor, far from the froth and flume. I could tell them about my housefly-swatting technique, which I’ve perfected over the last few days, but I don’t think they’d be interested. Flies are a poor match for kraits, and it’s too hot to embellish anyway.