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Driving north to a meeting where I’ve got to get my point across without coming on like the tsunami people have likened me to
I notice the rapidly bruising sky up ahead, the headlights snapping on
And through the rearview mirror the sun glows green and sickly The long snake of traffic has me wondering if I’ll make it to the meeting before the storm strikes.
I didn’t bring a raincoat Or an umbrella I hope the power doesn’t go off- I need the power at this meeting.
When the wind rises, slanting hard across the car, I half-expect a figment of Jim Morrison’s imagination to slide over the windshield
But it’s just hard slaps of rain that send me Cranking the old wipers fast, but not fast enough. Water comes down so hard that it billows up from the road, shoots out from the wheels of oncoming traffic --thunder cannonballing off the roof lightning x-raying the roadside farms
in an insane deluge that take me out of every thought but this.
Finally I find sense enough to pull over into the small lake of a convenience store parking lot, hoping it doesn’t get any worse because--of course-- I’m driving the car that stalled in a flash flood on the mountain this spring, and it hasn’t been the same since.
As I switch off the engine, I am cocooned by a world of water I think of the people of Texas coping with their season of water, of New Orleans Thailand Indonesia Thoughts drip-drip one to the next
The store looks like a boat with twinkly lights I decide to go in, and the rain stops Just like that. But the water
doesn’t. Panicky, it races for the dips, the channels, the ditches--
I go in anyway. The store, it turns out, is one of those channels--water flowing down the far aisle, and there’s just one kid, at the counter, on the phone with his mom asking if she can quick come bring a squeegie mop to the store and should he close up?
I grab a soda. I’m clearly the first person he’s seen since the cloudburst, so he tells me how the water just kept flowing--his arm making gestures to the back of the store, and how the rain came down so hard he thought it would drill through the roof.
“ Yeah,” I say, “it must have been scary,” And he looks right at me for a moment and nods and nods and nods again as he hands me the change. We both turn to stare at the stream thinning between the beer and the chips.
I wonder who this kid is and how hard it must be to be 18, working here alone, and who his mother is and how he’s going to cope, and I don’t want to leave him alone like this, water sliding across the floor, but my watch tells me I’ve got no time to spare,
Outside, the car starts right up, the cellphone rings, and I ease right back into the traffic.
But later, in my meeting and even beyond that--now-- I catch myself thinking about the kid and what it says about me that I left him there to fend, alone, until his mother arrived with the squeegie.