Jeremiah been struck three times and wasn't asking for no more. He stood at the doorway, all whiskey-drenched and stumbling, watching his girl just go. The thunder and lightning just tearing up that sky. There she go, I say. You best go on and chase after her, you want her to stay. Emma Mae knew the lightning was just the time to leave, but Jeremiah putting his lips to another woman's was the thing that made her stuff a suitcase full to brimming in the middle of that party and walk on out.
He asked where she'd go after she rabbit-punched him, made Jeremiah curl up. Maybe on past the county line and maybe on past that, Emma Mae said.
We all stood there behind him at the door, hootin' and hollerin' about this or that, egging the boy on, and he just stand there, stuck in his fearful way. That sky lit up again and again. And, Jeremiah, he says, dear God if I ain't trying to tempt your retribution tonight.
First time Jeremiah was struck by the lightning was the first time he met Emma Mae. She was the paramedic that picked him up. He always said he hadn't believed in angels until that moment, and that's a thing heartsick men say, but there it was.
Second time, he was working on the roof of the house and the lightning hit and he flew off and landed on the hood of his 1990 Geo Prizm. Emma Mae, who was living there at the time, came running out, crying and asking if Jeremiah's okay, and he just holds her face, looks at her sweetly, says, honey, you look haunted. Come close, closer, never let go.
Third time, Jeremiah's drunk and hitting golf balls in the rain, the deluge flooding the valley, and I'm out there, too, and I tell my brother we shouldn't be out there, but this was the first time Emma Mae'd left him and he'd lost about all he could lose, so a man like that ain't afraid of what's coming.
And, so, Jeremiah standing there like a forlorn hound, and he's just calling into the night, and all these partygoers telling him to go. And, I feel him. I see him heart-hurt and fearful. I want for him to find his way. I place my hand on his shoulder. I says, brother, what's good ain't going to last forever unless you willing to sacrifice yourself for it. And, he looks at the sky and all that flash and we hear that earth-shaking din. We all start calling to the night like wretched ghouls and stomping our feet and Jeremiah looks back, shakes his head. He looks out and takes a step. And, there he goes, tempting the fire and brimstone. Out he goes, lightning flashing, and we all hollerin' after him. He goes and goes. Emma Mae got that head start. He'd keep going 'til the lightning ran out.
Justin Lawrence Daugherty misses lightning in Atlanta. He wrote a little chapbook called Whatever Don't Drown Will Always Rise, from Passenger Side Books. He runs Sundog Lit.