Last week, in a tangerine raincoat that did not suit her pallid skin tone, Phylicia Wimby smiled through her lies. There is an 87% chance of rain for tomorrow. Due to the high probability of unpleasant weather for the entire week, we predict the Cousins won’t be arriving until next week at the earliest, once the rain dries up. Her and all the other meteorologists in shiny citrus-colored vulcanized rubber swore to us that Cousins Season wasn’t coming for a while, that in Virginia we had more than a week to prepare. A background of deep red the color of Coco’s favorite lipstick bled across the continental US from New York down south to Florida and west to Oklahoma. We knew better than to trust anyone who didn’t have to deal with Cousins; not like it was their problem, anyway.
Grandmomma Jojo felt the Cousins in her bones back in January. She called an emergency family meeting to tell us we needed to prepare earlier this year. Same feeling four days ago that told her there was no way we could fit all that food into our cars and we needed to rent a truck and stop looking at her BMW like that. The air took on a different quality when they was coming—and this sudden change left our skin covered in small raised bumps. Not exactly goosebumps, but—
“Love bumps,” said Baby Rashad, hopping down from his bunk bed in Cabin 5. That’s how we called them rashes when they first started. Nori, now a grown woman with a partner and two children, called them that once when she was five and had an imagination. Always strange what stuck around in our family. Baby Rashad lifted his arm for all to see—us, Auntie Marietta, Little Miriam, Uncle Sigismund, and especially Grandmomma Jojo. He pressed his arm into Grandmomma Jojo’s skin—a gridline of ridges—loose and tight—stretching from wrist to shoulder. The old and young were most susceptible to the changing seasons.
Grandmomma Jojo gently shook him off, distracted. “That’s enough, Rashad.”
Uncle Fernie, in Cabin 8, who did not possess an inside voice, bellowed into the walkie talkie, “I’ll go and get em some beers. Don’t you worry bout a thing. We’ll keep em distracted.” None of us followed Fernie outside. We ain’t us. For now, Uncle Sigismund stayed in Cabin 5 with us women and children.
Grandmomma Jojo turned to Auntie Marietta shaking in the corner. “You see, Mari? You don’t need to worry yoself bout nothin. Gon get yoself some rest. We got it.”
You could tell by the look on Grandmomma Jojo’s face that she most certainly did not have it. Her brow had not rested since Little Miriam had returned from the outhouse unaccompanied and reported the thudding. They falling from the sky, Momma, Little Miriam told Auntie Marietta, rousing her from sleep at 4 a.m.. They falling from the sky again. Every once in a while, Grandmomma Jojo would break from her conspiratorial whispers with Cheyenne and start searching around for something. When we asked her what she was looking for, she would hush us like talkative children.
One time, when we was kids, Grandmomma Jojo told us a story about how when she was a girl her momma, Great Grandmomma Beulah, had sat her down and told her she had to memorize all of the family recipes by heart before the next Cousins Season. Great Grandmomma Beulah informed Grandmomma Jojo of this in May all those years ago—not even two months before Cousins Season usually begins. Fifty-five family recipes. Lord knows how Grandmomma Jojo did it. And later, when her brother Kenny went up into the sky, her culinary skills took on an obsessive quality. Jojo didn’t tell us that part, of course, that part we heard from somebody else who heard from somebody else. She thought if she cooked everything perfectly, glazed pies, sautéed greens, and made sure the okra was just firm enough, Great Uncle Kenny would come on back home, and all this sky flying business would be over. She believed that if Cousins Season could summon him from wherever he ended up and brought him to her, then there was a meal that could make him stay put for good.
At first it started alright. When they was young, Great Uncle Kenny would bring three kinds of homemade pies when he visited Grandmomma Jojo. A pie for her, a pie for everyone, and a pie to remember him when he had to go. Those days was how Grandmomma Jojo talked about the past, a chasm divorcing her from youthful memories, the space that separated her then and her now. The depth of her loss.
Soon after, Kenny started to arrive on a sunny day real casual to Jojo’s house, like he was delivering the mail—bringing more and more Cousins with him—distant Cousins from Nigeria—France—Puerto Rico—hell even Oklahoma. Last year, Great Uncle Kenny brought over seventy Cousins with him. You ever had a Cousin you didn’t even share a common tongue with? You smiling and carrying on with a warm plate in your hands looking like a jack o’ lantern that’s been left outside too long. And for what, for courtesy? When it all started to change, when Great Uncle Kenny stopped inviting Grandmomma Jojo to visit him and started expecting what he wanted from Grandmomma Jojo with empty hands and a bad attitude, a hollowness spread within our family like a condemned tree.
We imagined the secrets Grandmomma Jojo and Cheyenne shared below, on the bottom bunk, and we wondered why we was never invited into the conversation. Why we was never chosen. Soon after the video call, only a few months after Grandmomma Miriam’s death, Grandmomma Jojo kept telling us how she didn’t trust us to get the seasoning exactly right for this Cousins Season, that everything had to be perfect this year. Apropos of nothing, Grandmomma Jojo would let everyone know that only she and Cheyenne would be taking care of the Cookout preparation this year. Now, Grandmomma Jojo was a damn good cook. No one could argue that. But Cheyenne? Cheyenne could burn a salad.
Entire family lines had been banned from handling food, Aunties exiled to the honest work of after-meal clean-up, Cookout set-up, and drink serving. Some Aunties you couldn’t even trust to mince an onion. We understood not trusting them, but us? We had made more than a few stomachs happy in our years—Grandmomma Jojo included. That shoulda tipped us off.
What Cheyenne lacked in book knowledge, she made up for ten-fold because she could convince most to do anything when she started talking. We had fallen victim to Cheyenne more than once, a skill she picked up from her daddy, Uncle Tariq, who once convinced a Dulles Customs agent of his unalienable right to bring four boxes of dried fish into the US. When Uncle Tariq’s daughter stopped hawking nutritional teas with questionable ingredients to unsuspecting Aunties and started selling life insurance to unprepared strangers, we was all the more relieved.
Baby Rashad had not moved from in front of Grandmomma Jojo, and he bent forward to press his forehead into her arm. The thudding of Cousins pounded outside. Each slam vibrated through the campground like a drummer’s blow.
“Rashad, baby.” Grandmomma Jojo glanced down at him. “Check under the bed for my bag.”
“But Grandmomma, I—”
“You what, Rashad?” Uncle Sigismund snapped out of his semi-lucid daze. He ducked from the window—fearful the Cousins might spot him. Looked to us like Uncle Sigismund was reaching for whatever bit of control he could grab the early morning the Cousins arrived. “You what?”
Little Miriam snapped up from the bed, waiting for the moment her little brother would get the treatment typically reserved for the oldest child. Rashad’s lips shut. He crawled under Grandmomma Jojo and Cheyenne’s bunk and crawled back out with ashy dust covering his knee caps and a heavy black leather bag.
“Thank you, baby.” Grandmomma Jojo shook the bag off before bringing it to her chest. Cheyenne, thinking she slick, reached for the bag. Grandmomma Jojo lurched back.
The thudding had still not stopped.
• • • •
Uncle Sigismund slipped out soon after Rashad started acting right to join the men, passing through the door’s crack in a swift motion. Grandmomma Jojo made Uncle Sigismund promise before he left, if he saw Kenny to not tell him which cabin she was in. Everything had already been set up yesterday. Grandmomma Jojo wouldn’t hear no lip about it and had us all get to work far ahead of Phylicia Wimby’s margin of error. The tables propped and covered in plastic. Cutlery in neat rows next to a mountain of paper plates. Uncle Fred had even set traps for any animal foolish enough to disturb our outdoor arrangement. All that was left now was to heat the food.
With half of the cabins on both sides of the Cookout set-up, it would give Grandmomma Jojo plenty of time to be prepared if Kenny went from cabin to cabin looking for her. The Cousins did not land randomly, and we had received missives over the family walkie talkies that they were starting at the outhouse, needing to relieve themselves after a long journey, no doubt. This all corroborated with what a sleeping Little Miriam, clearly worn out from being the first to witness the Cousins, had seen.
Auntie Marietta sat, alert with unblinking eyes, in the corner of her children’s bed, Baby Rashad repeatedly failing to get her attention. A quietness coursed through Cabin 5. Enough stillness to fool some of us to believe we too could rest. Had it all finally stopped?
The bravest of us peeked through the windows, leaving gray dust from the border of the wooden frame tickling our fingers. Our eyes adjusted to the sky before sunrise, the world colored rust in the ember light. Most Cousins sat with the Uncles and other men, holding cracked beers and wearing wide smiles. Uncle Julio and Kareem actually liked the Cousins and looked forward to seeing them year after year, and if you didn’t have to do nothing but sit, smile, and drink wouldn’t you like it too? Some Cousins, those who were not sufficiently entertained by the Uncles, moved towards the cabins, not fast, not in a rush—their imposition was inevitable. There was nothing we could do to stop them coming. We counted eighty and hoped no more would land.
Grandmomma Jojo rose up to join us at the window to search for Kenny. Her bag’s zipper halfway open, rattling with loose change. Following her movements, the bag bent forward slowly, then out poured all of Grandmomma Jojo’s belongings. A bright green container fell out and rolled on the ground. A shaker of Cousin Spice.
Grandmomma Jojo was unable to mask her shame or bend down to retrieve it. Before Cheyenne could reach the seasoning, Baby Rashad dove to the floor and grabbed it with both hands. Running with Cousin Spice, in seconds his foot caught on a lifted plank and he nosedived towards the floor. His hands shot out to break his fall and the seasoning torpedoed into sleeping Little Miriam’s rising tummy. Little Miriam stirred awake. She felt around the crumpled sheets for her assailant. Auntie Marietta woke from all the commotion, sensing her children’s sudden stress.
Little Miriam lifted the Cousin Spice close to her face. “What is this? Where did this come from?”
“Is it time already, Momma?” Auntie Marietta yawned and blinked rapidly.
“It’s long been time, baby.” Grandmomma Jojo exhaled, and we could almost feel her breath on our skin. The only face in the Cabin unsurprised by the reveal of Cousin Spice was Cheyenne.
One of us went over to Little Miriam to examine the Cousin Spice, glancing over the seasoning’s promises:
End unexpected arrivals!
No more uninvited guests!
A little today makes them go away!1!
“You actually think this crap will work?” we asked. And right after, we touched our fingertips to our lips, shocked at our freshness.
“We don’t need to be messin with it,” Cheyenne chimed in.
“Ain’t nobody talking to you, Cheyenne. We talking to Grandmomma Jojo. You think this will work, Grandmomma?” we asked again.
“I think I’m tired,” Grandmomma Jojo declared, “I have cooked through two husbands and more than forty Cousins Seasons, and I am tired. I cannot keep working myself down to the bone for nothing. If y’all don’t wanna help me,” At this, she turned to Cheyenne. “Then that’s fine, but I gotta do this for myself.” She sounded like she was saying it more to herself than to any of us, like she was finally giving herself permission to feel.
Without asking, Little Miriam took the Cousin Spice from us and handed it to Baby Rashad, who tip-toed to Grandmomma Jojo and placed it in her hands.
“Thank you, baby,” Grandmomma Jojo said, squeezing his hands.
“I haven’t been with this at all from the beginning,” Cheyenne said. “You can’t just take away our opportunity at hosting Cousins Season.”
“What exactly is being taken away from you Cheyenne? Tell us,” we said.
“You can’t cook, sis! And don’t be out here pretending that you can,” we said. Way we saw it, we was nobody’s favorites. Not Grandmomma Miriam’s—may she rest in peace—not Grandmomma Jojo’s—not Grandmomma Clo’s. These kinds of truths needed to be said aloud. “That’s why you wouldn’t let us cook this year. You wanted Cheyenne to have a chance—to convince her of this needing to happen—for the Cookouts to come to a peaceful end.”
Grandmomma Jojo switched the Cousin Spice between her hands. Once Cheyenne got going, Grandmomma Jojo changed. No longer the Grandmomma who would get the three families in order with a clap of her hands and a cut of her eyes. She looked scared of the future. “Once I hear that Kenny’s here, I am gonna tell him exactly what my plan is. I can’t do any of this without my brother knowing.” She said it all, once again. This time she sounded less convincing. Kenny would never agree to it.
Cheyenne had sat back down on the bed, sullen. In our hearts, we felt for both Cheyenne and Grandmomma Jojo, but we understood who had the right to make a decision like this. It wasn’t for us to decide.
• • • •
After the thudding came the summoning. A voice echoed outside the cabin, scaring the birds into flight. A low voice dragging through the campground, lifting leaves and scurrying animals in the trees. Everyone knew what Great Uncle Kenny sounded like. From Kenny, we learned the distinct cadence of calling for someone you no longer knew. “Jo-joooooooo. Jo-jooooooo.” A disjointed tenor, both far and near.
“I hear ya, Kenny. I hear ya.” Grandmomma Jojo’s head rested in her palms. Cheyenne had long stopped comforting her, and when we tried to, Cheyenne’s look kept us from getting closer.
Auntie Akua in Cabin 3 warned everyone that the Cousins had started banging on the doors. We heard the rhythm over the walkie talkie, an almost soothing cadence. Cabin 7 came next. Auntie Lily and Auntie Marisol panicking while in the background their kids screamed. In the span of half a minute, anyone who was not up snapped awake with clear eyes. The knocking came for us all.
Cabin 8. Cabin 2. Cabin 5.
“Don’t nobody go near that damn door,” Grandmomma Jojo’s voice cut low against the pounding. The same words she used on us when we was kids bringing too much outside into her house. Cheyenne wrapped her arms around Grandmomma Jojo. It did not look like a gentle touch.
“Cheyenne, take what you need,” Grandmomma Jojo said over her shoulder. To Grandmomma Jojo, what Cheyenne needed was the Cousin Spice. To keep this tradition going on regardless of what our elders had decided. For her favorite granddaughter, she would sacrifice even this desire, proving that Cheyenne could have anything if Cheyenne pressed for it hard enough. Cheyenne, who before this year had done the least amount of work for Cousins Season—leaving us to carry the weight of the Cookout. Cheyenne who would eventually run us into the ground if we let her.
“Lemme deal with Kenny first. Y’all wait for my signal,” said Grandmomma Jojo, walkie talkie in hand. Her bag left next to her eldest grandchild. Cheyenne’s hand hopped into Grandmomma Jojo’s bag then whipped up into the air and nestled deep within her pineapple wrap. With Grandmomma Jojo’s back to Cheyenne, our grandmother offered her complicity.
• • • •
While waiting for Grandmomma Jojo to call us outside to warm the food, Cheyenne napped on the bed alone, too relaxed for our liking. Over walkie talkies, we reached the rest of us in the other cabins and came to our own understandings. Cheyenne would no longer decide for us what we was meant to do. We not kids anymore. We remembered our names.
Fifi stood over Cheyenne. She lifted a book high in the air and dropped it. “Baby Rashad pooped. You need to change him.”
Cheyenne nodded to wakefulness. “His mother is right there,” said Cheyenne.
“His mother is sleeping.” Tamika motioned to Auntie Marietta’s back.
“And why can’t one of you do it?” Cheyenne said.
“Because Baby Rashad wants you to do it,” said Fifi firmly. Baby Rashad crawled onto the bed and hugged Cheyenne.
Cheyenne sat up from bed with Baby Rashad clutching her waist, and the Cousin Spice refused to fall out of her hair—the seasoning seemed to be glued within the folds of her curls. The pair walked over to Baby Rashad and Little Miriam’s bunk bed, where Baby Rashad laid back, awaiting a diaper change. When Cheyenne bent down to retrieve a new diaper from his bag, a glimmer of green flashed, loosening from her hair. Cheyenne’s hand snapped up to fasten it. Tamika nudged Little Miriam forward.
“Gimme a horseback ride!” Little Miriam jumped on Cheyenne’s back.
“Get offa me!”
Little Miriam held on tighter to Cheyenne’s shoulders, refusing to be shaken off. Baby Rashad jumped up and peeled out of the bed screaming. When the Cousin Spice slipped out of Cheyenne’s hair and smacked onto the ground, Cheyenne was too distracted to notice.
We formed a phalanx around the Cousin Spice. Lysette, in the center, reached down to grab it while Lupita spoke in code into the walkie talkie, signaling all of us in the other cabins to come to Cabin 5 to help. We slipped outside of Cabin 5, one by one, to join the rest of us. Auntie Marietta already told us she would make sure Cheyenne wouldn’t come outside, and we believed her. She was the one who came up with the plan to get her children involved in keeping Cheyenne out of the way. Auntie Marietta had winked at us from bed, then proceeded loudly snoring to fool Cheyenne.
In the rising sunlight, we divvied up the powder. In a circle, we held open our palms and Lysette poured the Cousin Spice as evenly as she could into our hands. The Cousin Spice felt smooth and fine—sandlike grains that would rid Grandmomma Jojo of her issues for good.
We split off into pairs to make sure that there was always someone keeping watch in case any Cousin had questions about what we was doing. Everything had to be covered. The greens, the beans, the rices, all the meats. It was not a small amount of food that would feed over 150 people, and we needed to move quickly. We felt it was only fitting that the last meal the Cousins would eat at the Cookout would be what was made by Cheyenne. That taste alone should make them not want to come back—the Cousin Spice would guarantee it. We sprinkled Cousin Spice into collard greens—mixing and mixing and mixing. We doused it into the broth of the peanut butter stew, hoping the other flavors would mask the taste. We folded it into arroz con pollo and prayed. We sprinkled it on top of salads for good measure. We lit the furnaces to heat up the meals, letting the waft of food call the Cousins over.
We was finally doing right by all the matriarchs of our family. We was freeing ourselves of the burden of Cookouts for years to come. Because if we allowed Cheyenne and Great Uncle Kenny to rule over us, we would be cooking until we were in graves, after seasons of stolen hours, thankless meals, and resentment building and burning. We was doing for ourselves. This was for Grandmomma Jojo. This was for Grandmomma Clo. This was for Grandmomma Miriam, may she rest in peace, and all the Grandmommas before her. Most importantly, this was for us.
We knew nothing of a time when Cousins pitched in, when Cousins invited us to visit them, when Cousins visited when they wasn’t forced to by the seasons. When Cousins brought you side dishes and something, something intangible, some feeling of joy when they was coming. When Cousins expected nothing from you and was happy to receive anything you had to give, even if it was just your time.
If something was not to a Cousin’s liking, gossip would be spread about you through church whispers, yard sales, farmer’s markets, and digital threads. We had heard of surprise layoffs. Misplaced job applications. After a Cousins Season when Uncle Tariq offended our visiting relatives in an argument, he lost his job the next day under suspicious circumstances.
Cheyenne reminded us of her father’s misfortune when she finally escaped Cabin 5. “You don’t know what they’ll do when they find out they can’t come anymore,” she warned us. We couldn’t argue that, but we knew what would keep happening to us if we didn’t stand up for ourselves. We would not be bullied by fear of and love for anyone—not anymore.
When we finished, when the remnants of what we had done clung to our fingers, we did not know what to do with what was left. No one woulda suspected this behavior from women like us, women who only listened and cooked, women who thought the only honor to be found in family was receiving someone else’s wordless approval.
Tamika reached her hands up to her mouth and licked the pads of her fingers. “Tastes kinda good,” she said, surprised.
“Like candy,” Lysette smiled.
“Or Mambo sauce,” said Fifi.
“Suha,” added M’Kayla.
Grandmomma Jojo spotted us from a distance and marched over. “Didn’t I tell y’all to wait for my signal?”
“Grandmomma, we grown. We don’t do all that no more. We wanted to make sure that the Cousins got to eat first.” This was far from tradition, as the women were the first to eat at Cookouts regardless of how rude the Cousins might be. “We made sure to save a plate for Uncle Kenny. We want you to give it to him.”
When Great Uncle Kenny caught Grandmomma Jojo coming over with a steaming plate for him, he waved at her excitedly. As she got closer and closer, that wave weakened, halting in midair, and he brought his hand back down to his side. His expression sharp against the blushing sunrise. They talked for a long time. Whatever she said to him, you could tell she had been meaning to say it for a while—that time had moved too fast for the both of them and stolen away at memories, shifted loyalties, and muddled the way family treated one another. Too many people had gone in our family to be treating each other like we wasn’t nothing to nobody. Kenny kept nodding his head and we had to hope a dreg of empathy remained untampered within the reserves of his soul. We had to believe; for all our Grandmommas, we had to.
Grandmomma Jojo and Great Uncle Kenny reached for each other and embraced—this time it looked for real, this time it looked like goodbye—separating from each other and nodding, like they understood one another again. We would never find out what exactly was said between Grandmomma Jojo and Great Uncle Kenny. Frankly, we did not have the right to know, and we was not bold enough to ask. But even though we did not know—we did.
Grandmomma Jojo walked away from Great Uncle Kenny and lowered herself into a seat far separate from everyone else. Her arms flew into a motion that looked like she crossed herself—a shock to us, because she wasn’t Catholic. Then she lifted her walkie talkie to her lips. “Everybody, ain’t no need to come out. We got everything under control. Go on and get some shut eye.”
One by one, we walked over to Grandmomma Jojo and hugged her, let her feel our face in her hands like she used to when we was girls. We was not children anymore, but still we missed the feeling of pressure from our Grandmomma’s hands.
• • • •
While the Cousins ate, we humored them, telling them about what they had missed in the past year. Who got married. Who got so drunk they couldn’t stand at the reception. Who graduated, who got right, who got the hell outta the DMV. And the Cousins and we looked at each other real good and nodded, made promises we had no intention of keeping, to see each other more often, to get to know each other better, to set up play dates and video calls. If it wasn’t for Cousins Season, we would never have met, and maybe that was a good thing in the end?
Great Uncle Kenny ate from his plate real slow, and when people asked how he was, he wouldn’t respond. After a few plates and beers, the Cousins began to fall asleep. With the distance some had traveled, we understood their need for rest. Or maybe it was the Cousin Spice. Or the itis. In the almost silence, their snores accompanied the skittering of squirrels in the forest and shuffling leaves. They molded into the foldable chairs, stretched out on blankets and breathed deeply. We could watch them for hours like this, still and without want, with no desire to bother us. Last year, when Ramot gave birth to Baby Seun, we all took turns to give her and Yusef a break, toting Baby Seun in our arms, who grew heavier with each step. How badly we wanted to be the child who slept. We felt ourselves relax for one of the first times around our Cousins and believed it unnatural.
“What should we do now?” Fifi asked.
“Nothing,” Lupita replied.
“Let the sky wake them,” said Marisol. A Cookout in a drowsy summer morning. Rib bones dropped in dirt by fingers slippery with Sweet Baby Ray’s. Grains of rice scattered in a mix of blankets like seeds. Cousins snoring like hooting owls.
Long before commercials started coming on at 2 AM about ways to get rid of unwelcome guests, we was enchanted by our Cousins. We would sit on the grass for hours looking for them, long before the love bumps arrived, running home after school let out, begging for them to come early and float down into our lives. We would play games, guessing who would come 1st, 2nd, 47th to the Cookout. As kids, we thought it was magic that brought our Cousins down to us, but as we got grown we knew better. Magic did not make us toil our summer breaks in sweaty kitchens. It was tradition spoonfed to us as love. And like all actions done again and again, we did not question the customs, did not think there was any way to stop gravity and the patterns woven into the fabric of our family. Stubborn knots could be loosened and undone. We would learn something new about love.
Auntie Glo opened the door of Cabin 7 and waved at all sixteen of us. She ambled over with a yoga mat sandwiched between her arm and hip, all fluid joints and languid motions. In the center of the campground, she found a place to roll out her mat with a “plop!” She invited us to join her on the grass, waving us over with open palms while our own hands remained textured in our rebellion.
Grandmomma Jojo nudged at Cheyenne’s folded arms, pushing her forward. “Go on and join them, Cheyenne.” At first, Cheyenne hesitated to sit among us, but eventually, she bent forward and lowered to the ground.
Another sound began to overtake the snores in the campground. At first, it sounded like birds moving against the air, all chirps and small bursts, fluttering in the wind, soaring into the sky. Cept it wasn’t coming from the trees, it was coming from Tamika. A woman once so quiet, now full of untenable, ear-catching laughter. Cali joined her with a pitch reminiscent of a rain shower.
Later, Grandmomma Jojo would tell us that what she said to Kenny lifted the heaviness in her bones. That the weight she had been carrying for decades departed and carried into the wind.
Mariatu’s voice joined. Then Shamia. Keisha. M’Kayla. Auntie Glo thundered in her rapid torrent of joy, finding a slower pattern among us, calming us into something deeper and richer, like ember. We all could only be certain of feeling. The sunlight rising against our face, warming our skin. The love bumps lowering on our bodies, itching less, and releasing us from some sensation we could not yet give a nickname.
Grandmomma Jojo turned towards the heavens. Her hands gripped the arms of her foldable lawn chair, palms wet with wiped tears. When we dared to look beyond—beyond the generations and up—beyond what bound us to the ground—the sky opened.