One great short story to read today: Leslie Marmon Silko’s “The Man to Send Rain Clouds.”

Emily Temple

May 30, 2023, 10:00am

According to the powers that be (er, apparently according to Dan Wickett of the Emerging Writers Network), May is Short Story Month. To celebrate, the Literary Hub staff will be recommending a single short story, free to read online, every (work) day of the month. Why not read along with us? Today, we recommend:

“The Man to Send Rain Clouds” by Leslie Marmon Silko

Originally published in 1968 under the name Leslie Chapman, “The Man to Send Rain Clouds” is a little dagger of a story about a clash of religious customs and the differences between what people think and what they say and what they do. But what I like best about the story is its calm, careful use of repetition and timing; certain parts feel like a villanelle in prose form, or like a spell being cast. The result is that you wind up hanging on every word, enchanted.

The story begins:

They found him under a big cottonwood tree. His Levi jacket and pants were faded light blue so that he had been easy to find. The big cottonwood tree stood apart from a small grove of winter-bare cottonwoods which grew in the wide sandy arroyo. He had been dead for a day or more and the sheep had wandered and scattered up and down the arroyo. Leon and his brother-in-law, Ken, gathered the sheep and left them in the pen at the sheep camp before they returned to the cottonwood tree. Leon waited under the tree while Ken drove the truck through the deep sand to the edge of the arroyo. He squinted up at the sun and unzipped his jacket—it sure was hot for this time of year. But high and northwest the blue mountains were still deep in snow. Ken came sliding down the low crumbling bank about 50 yards down and he was bringing the red blanket.

Read it here.

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