“I’m going home,” she said as I sat in my lawn chair watching the storm brewing off the coast.
“Ok, babe. I’ll be fine by myself.”
I watched her get in the station wagon. I loved that old brown bomber. It reminded me of my mom’s old car. The one we piled way too many people into and broke every law in the book on the way to the country club back when I was young. The way we piled in would get you pulled over in a heartbeat today. Mom would be on television explaining why she was such a bad parent. A mom that hated her kids and others’ kids so much that she’d endanger them so much.
“But really, Oprah, all I was doing was taking the kids to the pool. To have some fun. We do it every day just about.”
“But, Mrs. Jones, every time you did it, you might as well have been pointing a loaded gun at their pretty, innocent faces.”
The audience would most likely applaud that riveting bit of preaching by the old battle axe.
This thought made me smile. The rare memories of childhood for me do that. They’re more like Polaroids than anything else. I think I’ve bashed my head too many times over the years. I was knocked out in the third grade and in college for sure. And all the head butting of friends in high school certainly never did any good. Top that off with at least 150,000 beers and whip-its and the brain, well, it gets a bit mushy.
The station wagon pulls out of the driveway. I stand up and wave with a big grin. She doesn’t wave back. This takes my good mood and throws it in the garbage bin. Sulking, I plop back into my lawn chair. I don’t see them, but in a few seconds the fire ants will make their presence perfectly noticeable by attacking like the Blitzkrieg my poor uncovered feet.
I curse the damn red bastards, smacking at them as I pull away from their lair. Summer is cool and all, but the ants are evil. But I don’t bomb them with chemicals like so many others do. I co-exist. You’d think that we could find some common ground, some kind of truce. But no. They bite me like they bite anyone. It’s annoying, yet reassuring.
Some drizzle finally starts to fall as thunder and lightening start to light up the cloudy sky. The giant anvil clouds tell me that it’s going to be a doozy. The weatherman said it would hit around 7. It’s 4:45 and I’m guessing in 10 minutes the rain will be flowing like Sprite out of a Bojangles’ spigot.
The smell is intoxicating. It’s 90 degrees and what little rain is making it to the ground is evaporating fast. Concrete and asphalt give off an odor that takes me back to better times. I sit and enjoy it, knowing that when the real rain comes, that smell will be chased away. A bolt of lightening strikes the rods on top of the water tower a few blocks away. Mother Nature’s way of telling me something, for sure.
It then dawns on me that “home” for her is 1,000 miles away. I didn’t notice her packing up the station wagon, and with gas hitting $5 a gallon right now, I just figured she was going for a ride. A lot of times I called the road home, and she sort of did too, just not as enthusiastically as me. I got worried. I grabbed my cell phone and pulled up her number. Dialed. I heard it ringing inside the house.
“Time for a beer,” I said, getting out of my rusty chair and going inside. The fridge, as always, was stocked with watermelon and Shiner Bock. My summer staples. I grabbed a hunk of melon and two beers, the door of the fridge and then the screen door on the porch both slammed at the same time as I went back to my favorite spot.
Thoughts started to betray me about 6:30 and eight beers in. A little while later, the rain came like a stampede. I looked at my clock. 7:02. Damn if the weatherman wasn’t right this time. Good for you ol’ Skippy.
Soon, beers 12 and 13 were gone. As was I. The rain was starting to flood the streets and my porch. Too weak to fight it, I passed out in the chair. A loud crack of thunder woke me up sometime later. It was dark out. The power gone. Another flash of lightening lit up the yard. In the driveway was the station wagon. I felt like an ass. Always assuming the worst, and eventually making it happen.
I stood up. The buzz from the beer had long ago faded. Just a dull ache in the left temple now.
I was soaking wet and shivering when I went in our bedroom. She was awake. She looked at me and shook her head.
“Why didn’t you wake me?”
“You looked happy there, wet, cold, miserable.”
I started crying. She stood up.
“Take those wet things off.”
She undressed me as I whimpered. I was ashamed of my mind. Of my thoughts. I only hoped she didn’t know. But how could she not?
“You know, I almost kept driving tonight,” she said as she toweled off my back. I wondered if she was disgusted by the hair on my shoulders.
“But something about that storm told me I was making a mistake.”
“Thank God for rain,” I said, still struggling not to cry.