Heat Lightning

By Guy McClure

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When the sun finally called it a day dragging its long shadows that spread into an all-encompassing cooling blanket, we would emerge with our wet heads smelling of soap and the indoors – calmed from the previous hours exertions by tepid waters and echoed sounds.  In our paper-thin pajamas, we sat in the front yard, cross-legged in the folding chairs with the prickly green plastic webbing on the seats – hoping to, but never catching the breeze that could work wonders by cooling our still dewy bodies.

With nothing planned for the next day there was no need for clocks and we could succumb to sleep only when it was invited.  Far away a train rumbled past warning no one but assuring many, and a dog barks for the sheer joy of it.  Then we would watch the sky dance in its evening show of heat lightning.

It was like something you would only hear about or somehow had the knowledge of by instinct – - an anomaly as a child that was always just over the horizon.   Far enough away to be safe but exciting enough to make your head turn with wide eyes. You could always see the result but you could never see the action – the happening – the being of it.

It was the complete opposite of what it represented.  There would be no rain – no storm – and no cool breeze.

I always liked to think of it as a dazzling city, just out of sight, with camera flashes and shocking strobes – with great crashes and loud noises and a hope that someday you’ll find out how to get there and witness the fevered glare on your own terms, looking back over the horizon and remembering home.

The smell of grass and clover and insecticide – it was as if you could smell the moon and the stars and the streetlights if you tried.  Those warm nights amplified all the senses and pasted their results into our memories like a scrapbook.  These nights of sheer utter contentment were not wasted on the young for they gave us memories and goals and templates for others.

Those scents, a train, a dog, the light – all pieces of a puzzle that we worked many times but only with age and distance realize its simple yet priceless worth.

 

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