I just got back with a shitload of red lights. You know, Christmas lights, my wife calls them twinkie lights. At the junk store they were 20 cents a box, dirt cheap, so I bought 170 boxes. 100 lights to a box, that’s a shitload of lights.
I come in the house with as many as I can carry in one load and the wife says, “What the hell you got there? Cupcakes? Let me see what you got there.” She’s got sweets on the mind so I sour her mood and show her the lights. “What we need these for? You old fool.” She walks to the kitchen to cough up phlegm. After 51 years of marriage she’s still private about some things.
I go to the kitchen; the wife’s sitting down at the table with a flame under the teakettle that looks like it could get out of hand. I think of the Holsteins across the road and how the summer of ’76 they fried to a crisp after lightening hit Asher’s land. “Sure hope you’re watching the stove.” My wife looks at me through cloudy glasses and says, “What do we need all those lights for?” I don’t want to answer this question. It will just lead to another.
I look at her as the kettle takes to screeching and hear those Holsteins plain as day, belting to break free. Red lights flashed that night through these kitchen walls and we lost power for five days. I think about the boxes of red lights I’ve stacked in the other room, wondering what I might do to warn the weather that its comeuppance is due. I take to the road, arms full of lights, and hike over to Asher’s land, dirt cheap now that Clint Asher’s gone and not a one of his kids left to farm. I’ll stake out the land and run the lights along the border so God can look down and weep all the same. Off in the distance I see one cow chewing her cud. One cow silhouetted in the back, mirroring the outline of the wife in the window.
My son’s hiding behind the wife’s dress sucking his thumb. Dirty feet on the both of them. The wife’s stirring ingredients for a devil’s food cake, spatula heavy with candied cherries. Cats flying through the yard. Crows cackling. Within minutes the sky’s tumbling and daylight is only a memory. “Come on in,” I hear the wife say. “You old fool,” she says as she tosses the tea leaves out the back door on top the bed of jonquils.
That’s a shitload of lights I found today. I head closer to what remains of Asher’s barn and leave the lights I’m carrying. The cow has jumped the fence and a flash of red rises from the ground. Those lights, 20 cents a box, someone’s junk times one hundred, have found their new resting place under God’s stirring sky that may soon leave us powerless.