Okay, you caught me. I’m scared of lightning. It’s written on my face so plainly that it could be in thick black permanent marker. I’d bury my nose in a book, but it wouldn’t throw you off; you’d still see my hands shaking, and you’d notice that my eyes weren’t actually moving over the page.
I have good reason. I know firsthand the destructive power of lightning. I was two years old—wait. I can anticipate your objection. “Nobody remembers anything clearly at that age,” you say. “Are you sure you’re not just making this up? Or exaggerating?” Just listen until I’ve finished my story. It sounds fantastic, I know, but I swear it’s true.
I was two years old, and my Grandpa Joe was taking me for a walk around the cul-de-sac. Grandpa Joe had a bad knee, and he hobbled around on this metal cane that he acquired God knows where. (My father picked it up afterwards, blackened as it was, and kept it.) So, with his right hand on his cane, and my tiny fingers looped through his left, we toddled along the sidewalk.
The rain came out of nowhere. Well, I don’t know if that part’s true. I was too young to predict the weather, and perhaps Grandpa Joe’s aging senses were too diminished. Maybe he couldn’t see the clouds gathering, or hear the thunder growling in the distance, or smell the musky, petrichor-infused air that announces a storm. All I know is that one minute we were dry and the next we were drenched.
I remember hearing a clapping sound so big and booming that it surrounded me physically; I could feel it rumbling through my body. Grandpa Joe looked down at me, his glasses fogged up and streaked with raindrops, and said:
“Let go of my hand, jelly bean. Let’s see how far you can walk.”
I loved it when he called me jelly bean, and I loved a challenge. I wobbled through the puddles towards my house, and when I reached the curb I turned to see how far he was behind me.
It happened just then, just as I turned around. That highlighter yellow zigzag surged down from the sky in an instant and bolted directly into Grandpa Joe’s cane. He lit up like Christmas, and I could see his whole skeleton, his bones white and dancing like a cartoon. He jolted into the air, and when the raw electricity left him he fell forward onto the ground.
I wasn’t sure what to do, so I stayed in the driveway, splashing the water around like a force of nature, until my parents got home. By that time it was too late. It was probably always too late, but I’ll never know for sure.
Writing group was good last night. Lots of helpful discussion. It's rainy here in Chicago, hence this story. Although the thunderstorms haven't been as big as I like. I'm a fan of thunderstorms.