The Devil’s Beating His Wife

Come late spring, early summer we in the South, at least here in Alabama, enter a strange weather period. It could be 90 degrees one day, but it might be 70 the next. One minute it’s dead calm and you think you’ll drown in the humidity, then all of a sudden a nice breeze will kick up. It may be clear where you are, but there’s thunder way off in the distance. And one minute the sun is blinding you, and the next the clouds are gathering and getting darker and angrier by the minute.

And several several times in the last few days, it’s started raining on me while the sun was shining. Now I don’t mind it raining, and I certainly don’t complain when the sun shines. But it’s always weird to me when both happen at the same time.

This phenomenon is what’s known as a “sunshower.” But this mere compound word is too plain for a Southerner. When this strange occurrence happens down here, as it did when I was going to lunch with two of my coworkers the other day, you’ll likely hear somebody say, “The Devil’s beating his wife with the frying pan!”

Which is exactly what I said as we walked to the car in the rain. But since both of my coworkers are from New York, they looked at me like I was crazy. “What?” they said.

“The Devil’s beating his wife with the frying pan!” I repeated. “It’s just what you say when it rains while the sun shines.”

In retrospect, it does seem a little bit odd to allude to Satan and domestic violence just out of the clear blue. The theory, I reckon, is that Satan is mad because God has created a beautiful sunny day, and he’s taking it out on his wife whose tears fall like rain. But out of this dark story sometimes comes great beauty. Why? Because a sunshower occurring at just the right time of day, when the sun is at just the right angle, creates another weather phenomenon that’s weird and wonderful all at the same time — the rainbow.

Maybe that’s when the Devil’s wife opens up a can of whoop-ass right back on him…

(Get your copy of They Call Me Orange Juice today! You’ll find out why they called me by that nickname and get to read more essays about growing up and living in the South.)