1. I finally stopped at the smallest motel I could find and fed quarters into the Coke machine. Now I’m watching the electric blue light rippling from the pool. There aren’t any trees out here so you can see to the end of things. Lightning flashes, still far off. It’s pink and jagged, the kind you see in photographs on bank calendars - that nighttime shot with a distant farm along the edge and that one lone jag of lightning reaching all the way down. I’ve always wondered where that farm is. It’s here out along I-70 just stepping out of room 217 that costs $55 a night and the carpet is sticky.
2. I didn’t recognize the names on the weather map inside on TV. I don’t know if those warnings are for me. I hold the sweating Coke can and watch the sky. Shadows of sunflowers cut themselves out of the horizon. I can’t tell if I should take shelter immediately. The signs in the lobby showed a symbol of a narrowing coil - a twister. I didn’t stop to read the numbered directions below that would’ve told me what to do. Now I just stand and stare, count the seconds in between.
3. And I notice how the reflections bouncing off the pool are like its own lightning. How they ripple. How they move. How it looks like I'm under the water and not over it. Under the water you could be anywhere. Under the water looks the same in any state off any highway. Under the water you’re not the guy who’s lost everything.
4. It’s closer now, the lightning. If I recognized those counties on TV, I’m sure I’d be taking cover in the lobby with the boxed up cereal and empty coffee pot and red vacancy sign that’s curled up humming.
5. But I don’t want shelter.
6. I want to get kissed by lightning. I want it to jolt my bones, electrify my heart.
7. Maybe I’ll jump in the pool fully clothed, wave my arms, yell, “Here I am!” I don’t know what stops me.
8. The woman in 212.
9. Her curtain keeps moving, and she glances out like I’m a madman, not some guy holding a Coke can watching the storm move in.
10. Maybe tonight I am.
Linda Niehoff's short fiction has appeared in TriQuarterly, Necessary Fiction, New South, and elsewhere. She's a part time photographer and a full time homeschooling mom. She tweets @lindaniehoff and blogs occasionally: www.thewrittenpicture.typepad.com.