July 28th, 2005


Real life, or Memorex?


7-27-2005 – 11:15 PM

The dogs noticed it first. They circled his ankles, barked at shadows and stared out through the sliding glass doors to the pool and the sky beyond. Irritated, Dave brushed past them and slid the door smoothly open.
The air was hot and moist. It was dark, nearly eleven thirty, but the heat was nearly as stifling as it had been that day. Before he reached the side of the deck and opened the wooden gate for the dogs, sweat had slicked his back and his forehead.
A flicker of light caught his eye. Lightning? He gazed up at the black sky and watched, mesmerized, as a continuous, flashing brilliance lit the clouds. He turned and stared at the upper story of the house, wondering if his son, mimicking a storm, might be strobing the light in his room. Half-formed accusations died as he stared at the dark window and watched the lightning reflect from its surface.
“Weird,” he muttered.
Haily, the female sheltie, nervous under calm conditions, rushed back to the top of the stairs and nosed her way through the gate. Bo stood like a miniature statue of a great Afghan hound, staring at the lightning and calculating whether his bark could frighten it away. His hair blew in the light breeze and danced about his long, slender nose.
Then he turned and joined Haily on the porch.
Inside, the family was preparing for bed, and sleep, but they joined him for a quiet moment by the pool to watch the lightning.
* * *
In bed, he watched the windows flash. If the light hadn’t been so blindingly white, he would have thought there was a fire. The wind had picked up. The baby, oblivious to danger, had only glanced up once, confused by the growing threat of thunder and wind. She slept peacefully; butt in the air and her arms wrapped tightly around her stuffed pig, PcGee. He’d made a game that night, trying to make up Dr. Seuss rhymes on the spot, but getting no further than “In a boxing ring, in the heat of spring, stood pugnacious pink PcGee.”
Now he lay in bed, curled up beside Trish and watched the windows strobe in the periphery of his vision. Leno filled the TV screen, explaining how he’d bought things at the ninety-nine cent store, but he just wasn’t QUITE sure they’d catch on. Plastic army men marked Mary Men. A little girl’s stationary gift set with paper, pencils, a tiny notebook…and a rubber snake?
A sudden lightning flash lit all the windows at once. The TV died to a black spot that strobed once, flashed back on, died again, and there was darkness. Hail hit hard and fast, and rain slashed the windows. The lightning, if anything, grew brighter. With the AC powerless, the air thickened. The baby slept on, but he and his lover talked, the rhythm of the world drawing memories and worries from them like the hot air had drawn the sweat. He drifted, thinking it odd that the rain, so loud with the house silent, had grown more threatening by the removal of the bright blue numbers on his clock.



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