My fists are bursts of endless light. My breath is the air that wraps your world like Christmas morning. I am the spark that lit life’s murky catalyst.
I am the God of thunder.
“The world is crashing down around me,” he bellows, “but I am all alive. I become the God of thunder.”
“I know,” I say, “I know,” I’ve said a thousand times.
A chartreuse streak lights the purple sky like the quick crack of a Zippo lighter. Then everything is brown again, just as quick as ever. I am in the back of the car drinking scotch, and I know I shouldn’t be. He’s sitting at the front, steering with his knees and reading off bad poetry. It’s his ritual. Mechanical equipment buzzes and whirrs, hums and clicks in between us. We are bouncing down a dusty desert road.
“Nothing is set. Nothing ever settles. We drift, eternal. The wheel in the sky keeps on turning. We are the riders on the storm. The spirit in the sky. Dust in the wind.”
“Shut up,” I tell him, but I know he won’t.
“Piss off.” Then, another bolt—all yellow against the purple. A perfect conflict in color.
“We’re in for a good one,” I remark.
“Maybe,” he says.
He starts explaining the clouds to me and giving me the jargon—telling me why it’s going to be a good one or not. I know some of the words (cumulus, nimbus, lightning), but it’s not my forte. He’s the one that knows the stuff. I’m the guy that rides hot in the back—the guy who pushes the buttons and says “Wow, hell of a storm tonight, friend.”
There’s a house with wooden paneling and a green, green roof coming up on us. It’s close to the road, I think, but I can’t really tell where the road stops and the dirt starts anymore. Swaying with the wind, I see the blurred and magnified image of a dark haired girl in the rimmed window of the place. She’s facing us. The wood of the house is suddenly too old. I can feel it in my bones. I begin to wonder, so I ask:
“Is that house gonna make it through the storm?”
“Huh?” he asks. He’s too busy with books and barometrics now.
I know it’s probably not possible, but I’m convinced that the girl is looking right at me. Somehow, through the sheets of rain and sludge, our eyes are locked together. She’s wearing a pink shirt with a kitten design sequined into it of shining purple charms, and there’s a ketchup stain that’s the shape of Delaware just beneath the kitten’s left eye. In that split moment of our passing, her mother comes with wild arms and tears her from the window.
“It’s not safe,” I say in her stead, imagining their conversation from the car, “It’s not safe to stand by the windows during a storm.”
“What?” my buddy asks me.
“It’s not safe,” I say. I take a drink. “Nevermind.”
“You okay back there?”
I open my mouth to answer, but I’m jerked hard to the left as the car begins to hydroplane. Lemon dark blotches of scotch slosh from my open bottle, staining the air and burning my nostrils. He quickly rights the car, using his hands now instead of his knees.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it appears that we may be experiencing slight turbulence,” he says. He’s laughing.
“Ah,” I say, “Golden.”
“You stink like booze.”
I pass him the bottle and he takes a short swig. He recoils from the bite, then passes back the bottle.
“It’s good,” he says. I can’t tell if he means it, and neither can he. He knows storms. I know scotch.
“Can you hit that red button back there? Same as always?”
I reach around and feel up a tall, steel cylinder and force in the button with the flat of my hand. I feel something move on the top of the car. We’re going slower now, getting to the center of the action. We mounted weights to the bottom of the car a few years ago, and they help a bit. Once or twice we’ve gotten off the ground since their installation, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be happening again today.
Still, though, the storm is running us through like a little kid with a model car.
He takes his hands off the steering wheel again. He unhooks a two-way radio from the dash and calls it in. I’m fading in and out. I pick up the words “collateral” and “damage.” He hangs up with a click.
“I am the God of thunder,” he says.
I look at the reflection of his face in the rear view mirror. His eyes are red and puffy, like he’s been punched in the head a few times. I press my face against the window, letting the cold envelope my cheek before swallowing me whole. The rain is replaced by hail, and the gusts have us swaying hard. The lightning has become a permanent fixture of the sky, which is now a plum colored cauldron spilling out into the earth. I see it then, drifting effortlessly on the wind.
A wooden house floats by the car in silence.
“I am the God of thunder,” he says again, clearing his throat.
Picture courtesy of the wonderful & talented Liz Danchik