Lightning

Today’s #CleanWIP theme and collaborative article is Lightning. [More info]

Photo by George Alexandru (slightly altered for use here)

“The difference between the right word and the almost-right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.” ~ Mark Twain

Lightning would be so romantic if it would just keep its distance from everything important, including all living creatures. Of course we all know it doesn’t. All too often lightning ignites fires, damages homes and other structures, destroys appliances… sometimes it even kills.
The earliest scary lightning story I can think of happened when I was perhaps ten years old. While swimming in an in-ground pool, lightning struck close enough that I felt a slight tingle in the water similar to the sensation of sticking a 9-volt battery to one’s own tongue. (Wasn’t everyone their older brother’s battery tester? No? Hmm.)
I recall another close call in my early to mid teens. It was much closer, actually. I was watching TV with my dad while Mom was at the kitchen sink when all of a sudden and with a loud blended crackle and pop, a bolt of blue came from an outlet directly behind the television and struck the sink just as Mom took one step back from it.
I know there were many other times lightning was closer than I like it to be. I live in Florida. Some have called it the lightning capital of the world though the age of the Internet has shown everything—including this claim—is debatable.
Undoubtedly, the strangest lightning occurrences I’ve witnessed were during tornadoes. I’ve been in and near many, especially since February of 1999. I didn’t move. Perhaps they did.
Only some of the tornadoes arrived with lightning, but the lighting that came with those that did was unlike any lightning I’ve ever experienced outside of a tornado. Instead of booms of thunder, there were only extremely fast clicks and crackles; the flashes were like flashes of a strobe light at a dance party or the local disco. (Give it time. Disco music will make a comeback, I can feel it.)
This article seems it might tolerate one lightning fast tale. This occurred only a half-dozen years ago and it was among the most scary—holding its own with those during the tornadoes.
Boom! (Scared yet? No?) About three seconds later, another boom, this one louder and undeniably much closer than the first. I begin to count. One Mississ—BOOM! Shaken, I begin to count again. One—BOOM! And another. BOOM! I lie flat on the floor on my belly, now considering how soldiers must feel when in a war zone under fire by heavy artillery. A final approaching BOOM, quite deafening and then about two seconds later a BOOM further away, but obviously following the same line of travel.
I lie flat another couple minutes and finally get the nerve to get up. About twenty minutes later, I hear sirens of fire trucks and getting louder with each passing second. Roughly a minute later, they’re slowing in front of my home then turning onto the small private road at the edge of my yard. Turns out the final approaching BOOM struck a cousin’s barn less than a thousand feet from me and had pretty well burned it down before it became apparent to other neighbors what had happened.
But it sure seemed closer.

By Earl Chinnici
Today’s lightning theme seemed a great reason to work on my first draft of a work-in-progress currently titled “Fifty Close Calls.” If these collaborative articles have also helped motivate you to add words to a work-in-progress, I’d love to hear from you. Check the contact page for the latest info.

February 22, 2014 – Lightning exploded the side of a tree and propelled several shards of wood into the ground in multiple places, the farthest discovered piece being about fifty feet away from the base of the struck tree. The sticks forming the V (an X when viewed closer) in the background of this photo are also two pieces of the same tree. Others nearby were not photographed.