Non Fiction

Lightning and Fire – Part 1

We lived one country block outside of town in a house my Dad helped to build.  Across the street from a telephone pole, a ditch, and an alfalfa field.  When the air was clear you could see northeast  to the chocolate mountains and west to the coastal mountain range.  The road was quiet.  The ditch was a small off-shoot of the major network of irrigation canals that fed the valley turning it from a dessert to farmland.  It was lined with concrete and too shallow to swim in, but you could jump over it, or stand in it, or play with toys in it.  When I was four my brother saved me from drowning in it.  Occasionally the field was dusted with pesticide by yellow planes that looked like a winged engine.  They were loud as fuck and the pilots seemed daredevils flying so fast and so low.  The telephone pole served as nothing more than, pellet gun target and Johnny owl perch.  Beyond there was a whole valley of country fun.  It was so hot I spent most of my days and into the night watching television, taking the occasional break to walk to a corner grocer and buy candy or hostess pies, stopping along the way to look at discarded pornography that had been scattered throughout a grove of salt cedars.  You could stand at the end of my driveway and pace yours to the breathing of the world taking in nothing but times undisturbed passing.  Except for once a year when the entire horizon was rapt by lightning.  The horizon suddenly risen to the tops of thunderheads rather than the peaks of the chocolate mountains, the grey gradient and flashes of brilliant color followed by a short loud crack and long slow rumble, the wind, the moist smell in the air.  In those moments the world no longer seemed indifferent.

A lightning storm from the end of my driveway was a gift.  My father and I seemed to find each other at the end of the driveway sharing it.  My father was always a big man.  He had deep set blue eyes under a serious brow.  He always seemed deep in thought.  Then he would sing The Platters, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in a ridiculous voice.  He had dark hair and a matching beard hiding a square jaw.  In my child mind if God had a face it looked similar to my father’s.  He was light in his humor, capable of intimidating intellectual depth, and though good at making people laugh, he never seemed to carry himself with the lightness of the words he chose.  Sometimes when gaining my father’s attention it seemed he was leaving an internal dialogue that was unhappy or at least serious.  I’ve always assumed he was reliving moments of his addiction when he allowed his lesser angels to get the better of him.  Moments I knew of then and don’t care to share now.  When we watched lightning together the weight that I saw in him was lifted.  He had an easy grin and oohed and aahed at the same time as I did.  We were driven to laughter by an unbelievable force and while I was still a child and it made me happy to know that my Dad could share that wonder.



  1. Those lightening storms were magical, because you could be sitting there in the hot, dry summer air, not a cloud in sight and there’d be a crazy light show going on miles away. I remember sitting by that row of trees that cut through the elementary school and watching one happen over Yuma.

      1. I thought it was great. I started writing on my childhood a few weeks ago but I haven’t got around to adding to that. I’ll eventually get back to it.

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