We Should’ve Paid Attention to the Clouds by Hema Nataraju

We should’ve been looking when the clouds turned floofy, furry and then patchy–black, brown, stripy, orange. “Look Mama, Look Daddy, look at the clouds,” the remaining kids said, but who looks closely at clouds? While we went about our lives, the clouds burst and it rained. A yowl here, a yelp there, a mewl here, a ruff there. And with the kids clapping their hands in glee, it sounded exactly like regular rain.

Everyone had a pet now, or two, or as many as they wanted. The crazy cat lady next door took in ten kittens. She received an award from the mayor himself for being a responsible citizen. What a fine example she had set for the rest of us! We were encouraged to take in as many cats and dogs as we could, so they could clear the roads, airports, and train stations. We did that, and turned up our noses at those who didn’t. They made excuses–pet dander allergies, we want human kids, climate change, why isn’t the government doing anything about this?

It was monsoon–it rained cats and dogs again and this time, the Mayor said, “aren’t we lucky it’s not raining elephants or lions?” We laughed, but we also looked at each other like something didn’t make sense. But just then he announced concessions and prizes for households with ten pets or more and suddenly some of the people who didn’t like pets were interested. And we swayed with them.

After it rained again, there was a flurry of new advertisements on TV. Stronger medications, special masks for people with allergies to dander, newer, quieter vacuum cleaners to suck up every strand of pet hair, tiny vacuum cleaners you could carry in your pocket, vets, vets, vets, dog walkers, faster, cheaper kibble delivery services, pet hotels, pet daycares, pet, pet, pet…

Every morning we shoveled pet hair from our driveways, put them in neat mounds, shooed away strays from under our cars and drove to work on new chain-link tires. When the roads turned into furry carpets, the Mayor said, “How lovely, we can all walk barefoot on the streets now!”

And the “pet-hating hippies,” as the Mayor called them–the lucky few who had been able to conceive in these times–started placing their babies under the afternoon sun in their backyards, in parks, in any open space they could find, so the essence of those babies would evaporate and then maybe the heavens would shower babies instead of cats and dogs.

And to that the Mayor said “That’s the most absurd, most bizarre thing I’ve seen in my entire life!”

We looked at each other again–for longer, this time.


Hema Nataraju is an Indian-American writer, mom, and polyglot currently based in Singapore. Her work has most recently appeared in Barrelhouse, Bending Genres, Five South, Booth, Wigleaf, 100-word Story, and Ruby Literary, among others. She is a Submissions Editor at Smokelong Quarterly and she tweets as m_ixedbag.