There's electricity in the air during a thunderstorm at my house, inside the house as well as outside. One spring, the bottom had dropped out of the sky two minutes after we got home from a dance at Cowboy's school. Within seven minutes, I heard "Tnd stgfrd is fshhd" hollered from the back of the house.
"What?" I asked.
"Tnd stgfrd is fshhd!"
"I can't understand you," I yelled back.
As Flash walked into the hallway, I heard a slower, calmer voice say, "The street is flooded."
"Oh, okay." I didn’t think it was worthy of a Public Service Announcement; we'd seen lots of flash flooding here. But in Flash's Weather World, heavy rain and flooded streets are big news. He gets more excited about Mother Nature taking a shower, than seeing me step out of the shower.
Quickly after Flash’s weather report, we lost electricity; he scurried to our bedroom. We were on Red Alert. As I called Mom to check on her, I heard the rapid clack-clack-clacking of our blinds in the living room being raised. Flash was perched on the couch, gazing past the backyard.
"It's dark behind us. They lost power, too," he reported. I could feel the thrill in his voice. Pretending I didn’t hear him, I continued my phone conversation.
"I’m just checking on you, Mom. Got your candles out?”
"Oh, good idea,” Flash interjected. “Yeah, get our candles out."
After hanging up with Mom, I turned my attention to the Deranged Man running from room to room. “Candles, Flash? Why do we need candles? You collect flashlights like most Americans collected Beanie Babies in the 90s.”
Every Christmas, he tells me, “I need a pack of those small LED flashlights.”
“You already have 15 of those, Flash,” I respond.
“No I don’t. I’ve got 10. And they keep disappearing. I’m down to two on the headboard and six under my pillow.”
“And you have the police-baton flashlight, the camping lantern, three everyday-around-the-house flashlights, and the Fisher-Price dog flashlight that lights up when you open its mouth. I can’t believe you took that from Cowboy.”
“A hurricane was coming; I needed the dog,” he explained.
“Again, why are you searching for candles?” I thought, perhaps, he wanted a more romantic setting during his favorite kind of weather.
“You never know when batteries might die.” They’re outlasting my amorous feelings, I thought, as I pictured the Energizer Bunny with Cupid in a choke hold. I don’t know why Flash worries about battery loss; he keeps a private supply of AA, AAA, C, D, and E batteries in his secret hiding place, at all times.
As the storm got louder, the patter of the rain was only slightly quicker than Flash's footsteps down the hallway, as he returned to his Lookout Post in the guest bedroom.
"The neighbor's car is in the street, and they're not home.”
I gasped. “A car in the street? Call the police.”
With his nose pressed against the window, the Howard Cosell of precipitation gave a play-by-play commentary.
“The water’s higher than that car’s wheel wells. Do we have any way to get in touch with our neighbor?” Apparently, Flash also works for the Red Cross. He scrolled though his cell phone’s contacts, looking for a way to get his message out. He sent a private message to a friend of our neighbor, who in turn notified the neighbor. Across Flash's face was the sweet smile of success. Mission accomplished.
“Now the water’s halfway into our yard,” he continued. We’d had water that high before, but each new storm is a reason to celebrate. He went into the garage and opened the big door, to better assess the situation. The man who always sits in his car until the rain lets up, so he can walk to the front door without getting soaked, was standing in the rain. Desperate water levels call for desperate measures. Flash was covering the Storm of the Century.
“Look at this!” He pointed to the left of our house.
I walked to the edge of the garage, and looked down the street. “Yeah?”
“Okay,” I answered, still not sure what I was looking for.
“The water! Look how high the water is!”
“Flash, when I was a kid, we used to put leaves down the sewer so this would happen. It was deeper than this when we pulled Lylas’s dad’s boat out of her back yard and floated up and down the street. And you’ve seen water this high before.” By the way, if any of my neighbors from childhood days are reading this, I apologize for the inconvenience. I know the sins of my youth made it difficult or impossible for you to get to work for a while. Or, more importantly, for you to get the kids off to school and out of your hair for a few hours.
“But not here,” Flash answered. “I’ve never seen water this high here.”
“Flash, you’ve been through hurricanes in Texas.”
“But this is the first time it’s been this deep since we moved into this house,” he further explained.
“Oh, okay, so we’re determining the severity of floods based on where we’ve lived. But, Flash, during our last hurricane at this house, the water was higher than this.”
“No it wasn’t. This is one of the worst floods we’ve had.” He so badly wanted this to be a natural disaster record for our street. “This is the worst non-hurricane, non-tropical-storm flood we’ve had here.” He was creating new categories, to make it a pivotal moment in history. Specifically, our history.
I should’ve been a nice wife, and shared in his over-the-top, stop-the-presses amazement. But there was no boat to row downstream to the stop sign, so what was the point? I was busy tending to non-weather-related things. Like rummaging through the pantry for storm snacks. When my guilt got the best of me, I returned to the Lookout Post, to offer my feigned support. But the wind had died down and the water had quickly drained, along with Flash’s enthusiasm. He was forlorn.
“I could go outside and spray the windows with the water hose, to simulate another round of death-gripping rain.”
He didn’t appreciate my help.
Indeed, I ate crow for dinner the next night; Flash’s assessment of the severity of the storm had been correct. It was the highest number of rainfall inches for our area in years, surpassing that of our last hurricane. Multiple trees fell, around the city, and a huge number of cars flooded. Flash’s Super Weather Powers had been validated. Spring gave way to summer, then fall and winter. Of course, in Houston, we only recognize two seasons: Hot and Less Hot. With every change in temperature or humidity level, Flash is ever ready and able to keep us abreast of what’s in store. Temperatures are his consolation prize, when no storms are brewing. Day after day, year after year, he sounds like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, often impersonating Bill as he gives us the daily weather report.
As summer started this year, once again, Flash’s mind turned from water to heat. The town crier announced temperatures as they rose quickly at the end of May, and through June, July, and August. To his delight, our summer was mixed with many days of torrential rains, street flooding, and strong winds. It was a win-win, atmospherically, for my Weather Man. High temps, high water, high winds – Flash was high on weather. When powerful lightning storms came, I pictured him in his office at work, nose pressed against the window, reporting to his coworkers. Thankfully, he still has a job.
“This is the hottest day of the year,” he said a few days ago, on a Saturday.
“You can tell that simply by walking outside?”
“I can. It’s a gift. Be careful out there.”
“Yes, I’ll make sure I don’t wear my parka today.”
“Whatever. It’s hot out there.”
“Flash, the dogs are wearing bikinis and diving into the cold hot tub, the plants are dragging themselves across the yard to the water spigot, and I saw a camel standing on the corner yesterday, holding a sign that said “Sahara or Bust.” I know it’s hot.”
“No, I mean it’s really hot.”
“Oh, okay. Not the fake hot that’s made me change clothes five times a day for fear of offending my fellow man? It feels hotter because there’s no wind.”
Two days later, as I protected myself from overheating by lying on the couch, moving as little as possible, I turned on the TV. “…the hottest weekend of the year,” reported a professionally trained meteorologist.
Flash had been right, again. Crow is rapidly becoming my main staple. I think it’s time I stopped second guessing his gift.
It’s been calmer lately. And Flash is bored with mundane weather. No thunderclouds. No rain. No hail – and hail always gets him worked up. I saw him in the backyard three days ago, with two huge fans blowing at full speed as he sprayed the water hose into their airstreams. He picked up the dogs and twirled them in the air. Poor Flash; he was trying to simulate a hurricane.
The thrill was gone on earth; there was nothing newsworthy under the sun. Then God said, “Let there be a solar eclipse.” It was not weather-related, but Flash lives for all things in the sky. He was in his element. I begged him, “Please, Flash, don’t look at the sun today.” For decades at a time, adults don’t consider looking at the sun. Then an eclipse rolls around. Every news source in the world tells us to not look at the sun. And what do we think about all day? Don’t look at the sun. It’s the sun. It can burn out my eyes. Don’t look. Well, maybe I’ll glance. Yeah, I’ll glance quickly. Just a little. But I can’t let my kids see me do it. Then they’ll do it. Okay, I’ll pretend I’m watering the lawn, and look up to wipe my brow, in case they’re looking. Oh wow. That’s bright. I didn’t see anything. I’ll do that cereal box thing to look at the eclipse.
If reporters didn’t tell us to not look, we wouldn’t even consider looking. They planted the seeds of teenage rebellion into the entire human race. Don’t tell me to not look. I’m a grown woman. I’ll look if I want to. They’re my retinas. I guarantee you, dear reader, millions of people glanced at the huge burning star this week. For a millisecond. With nothing gained. Unless they had those fancy regulation eclipse glasses. The rest of us were putting a pin hole in a piece of aluminum foil and holding it over a white piece of paper in our backyards. High tech.
After talking about it for eight hours after it ended, Flash was back to his sad state of boredom. The skies are clear today. Temperatures are not record-breaking. But take heart, my Flash. There’s a storm heading for the Gulf of Mexico. The clouds are gathering; it's getting darker. And I hear thunder in the distance.