October 20, 2016

The storm hit with fury, mid-evening, and I watched from the open front door, the cat behind me and yowling. Rain slammed down, the fume and fog of it sounding like a waterfall, with rocks hitting the carport roof, the sidewalk, the house. There was a mirage of a lake and small waves running west to east.

A flock of geese flew north – I couldn’t see them, just heard and felt the movement – making such an anxious racket of sound. A huge raccoon made its way across the yard, pawing at the ground.

And then there was an explosion, fifty feet above me, a burst of orange light, like a firework, and a force slammed into my chest. I came to on the floor, the cat nowhere to be seen, the Cubs game on the television, for the power was not knocked out. No broken bones, just a pratfall, prone on my back.

I stood up, checked for broken bones, saw that the ballgame wasn’t close, and tried to focus my mind on what had happened. Then I had no talking point; I didn’t know what had happened or where it happened. I felt my pulse. My heart was racing, and with hindsight, I was afraid.

This morning, I walked outside at six am and saw two-to-three-foot long shards of wood, scores of them, laid out in concentric circles, radiating from one of my Kentucky coffee trees, the explosion having flayed the tree’s trunk, long fleshy strips from the top down.

Lighting had struck the tree at the top. I can’t tell you how electricity behaves, but I can say the force of the strike tickled me mightily.

I expect I’m not the only person who has pondered on the self-image of death. Had I been electrocuted by the lightning, whomever found me would have seen magazines strewn about the floor, two beer cans next to my chair, an empty bag of nuts on a hummus container (all I need to wait out the Apocalypse is hummus and bananas), a study of complete chaos, with a dictionary and history books with mentions of my grea-great grandfather lying opened on the floor, old envelopes filled with my scrawl of notes and plastic newspaper sleeves that the cat likes to bat around the room.

What would people have said? What have I done for anybody? How many ex-girlfriends would say, ‘That son of a bitch is finally, beautifully, poetically and appropriately dead.’ (or, to the point, Good, rot in hell!)

The pragmatic among you will want to know if there’s a will. Yes, there is a will, but you’re not in it. And there is a way. Farmer Orville has kindly opined that my body would fit nicely in his compost heap. I don’t doubt it.

Meantime, I am still here.

For now.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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