The overpass had been there for years…like that place to get donuts…..like that guy who fed pigeons at that bus stop on the line that long stopped service. It simply was. The neighborhood was humble and generally quiet aside from the cars passing overhead or the horn honk at times like some odd bird passing high above. The thunderstorm formed in the summer heat and just sat in place to the west of the neighborhood, not an unusual occurrence.
Laundry blew on clotheslines and grass bent toward the storm. A man proclaimed how odd this was, this wind toward the storm. The meteorologist would know that this was inflow winds and was not unusual at all. The father played catch with his surly teenage son as the wind blew. His daughter was a bit alarmed when the bolts of lightning began to flash within the narrow rain shaft west of the overpass and town. When the lightning became more frequent it was time to go inside. The old adage “ lightning never strikes twice” was disproven in the early twentieth century when the empire state building was seen many times being struck 3 or 4 times in a single summer thunderstorm. The father and a few neighbors knew none of this and spoke of the storm as odd.
The father wandered over to see where the lightning kept striking and discussed it with a few people he knew. There was damage in town. He took his son and daughter to leave town. After the divorce his children were bitter and wary of him but he tried. They feared more storms and hid out in a house. He made sandwiches that his kids refused to eat. He felt the storm of divorce, the acrid taste of the complexity of the death of a love in the eyes of kids too young to grasp it all. They awoke to roiling fire eating the house like a mouth. A plane had crashed…just fallen from the sky like a stricken bird. The basement walls shielded them from a sure death like that house reduced to a shrunken corpse where once were windows and ceiling. The peanut butter and jelly he left out in case his children got hungry was obliterated as though never nuts or fruit, never put in jars.
They drove east, aimless, disconnected, fear palpable. Why would a plane just fall? Did the pilot have a heart attack at altitude? Did a single wire burn out like the time uncle Joe had almost fallen away over the Atlantic on that long ago trip? They would never know. They stopped in a meadow somewhere and the daughter swore she saw something in the water. Whatever it was it shook her. It may have been birds. The father and son sat in the front seats but may as well have been miles apart. The miles passed in silence. They arrived at the dock in a great crowd. A man stole the car.
A train roared on the tracks engulfed in flame. It was a passenger train. It was, like the plane, a sort of waking ghost, a physical metaphor too of the tension in the family. Divorce can be a train with no driver, shifts in life can arrive like fires. It passed and again the night was simply cold and dull and the crowd like so many wet crows unable to move, stuck together en-masse. The daughter was frightened by the cruelty of the push of crowds, the son was angered by a father falling from grace as viewed by a child to a lost awkward soul beside him. The father was that train, moving and gutted, on a path and off whatevfer the track once mundanely was.
They jumped past a barrier in a mob and boarded a passenger ship. It bellowed its horn into fog and chill. The waters shed great bubbles from the massive engines as it pulled away from shore. It seemed peace and calm had again with the flavor of unsweetened oatmeal descended on the family. The ship then edged over at odd angle and began to capsize. A whirlpool like a storm of pure water spun beside the great vessel. Gravity can be a quiet presence. Gravity can also scream physics at high volume and things break apart.
The weight of cars now sideways hurled them like small houses toward the family as they slipped overboard. The bubbles of the engines now were like opaque violent octupi as a car passed near miss, faces alight with panic as it passed to the waters below. Once able to swim to shore the family ran past a fire, past another crowd, to a small old farm house. In the house was a welcoming man. He had lost his family so he said. He slowly proved as deranged as the tangles in his hair. He was chaos in a shirt and pants. He unraveled the more words shot like little broken clouds from his mouth.
The family again fled. They walked to another city. Amazingly the mother was there having a party as though nothing had changed since years before, that space in time that had long broken away like so much ice pack, that melting island in the rear view but there she was, sweater, grin, before the wafting scent of pie and coffee. The son was still surly, it was like his age shot it through his system like so much blood or oxygen. The daughter had less fear now of death and things falling from the sky, it was part of it all she thought, nothing less, nothing more. The father was simply tired. He was about to enter the visage he dreamed of for years till it fell away like that odd storm, like that plane. He would take this seeming happy ending for the dream it clearly was; he would ride out the terrors of pie and any false expectations of a return to the past that may come his way. He kept his eyes peeled as though ready for zombies while he was handed sugar and milk.
The journey was not over. It never really is.