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Close Encounters with Science: Picks

Weather Relations by Erin MacNair

We were the last of the feral children, raising ourselves on BMX bikes, eating out of vegetable patches. Suburbia offered little in the way of extremes, so we tested limits and patience, but our parents were…busy. Our reward was wide swaths of freedom. If we heeded the signs, came home for dinner, we were allowed to run.

Summer brought cicadas, scabs, and thunderstorms. When the sky turned pea green it was time to go home. Bigger clouds would be on their way, heavy arms swinging, slamming Heaven’s cupboard doors. I didn’t mind, storms meant board games in the basement. Possibly even snacks by candlelight, if the power went.

Tonight’s gale bore the absence of rain, just hot, thick air streaked with slaps of lightning. Mom was waiting for me at the screen door.

“Get in!”  She yelled, as if I was late for something.

“And turn the T.V. off, now.” 

I grumbled at this, why couldn’t my brother do it? I hadn’t been watching T.V…
She ignored me and turned on a slippered heel, fast shuffling through the kitchen, unplugging all the appliances. Heat lightning was unpredictable, had a life to it. Once, Mom saw it hit the house from inside the kitchen, and swore it lifted at the windows like a fingered ghost. She was really freaked after that.

I headed downstairs to the basement, advancing towards our wood-grain RCA.  I reached out my index finger to depress the golf-tee shaped knob, worn shiny by years of use.

“I got ittttttttttt,”  I yelled, as a jet of blue shot through my finger, blowing me backwards onto the carpeting. POP, went a tube, followed by a PPffftttttt noise.

The T.V. smouldered from the back, wisps of dark grey filtering through the vents like cigarette smoke blown through teeth.

I sat on the shag carpeting and stared at it, waiting for whatever came next.

Footsteps pounded down from upstairs and across the hall and all at once, they were asking me what happened, what? I looked at my finger, which was black at the tip, the fingernail singed. It smelt like burnt popcorn.

The words came out in a heaving torrent, that I had tried to save it and thought I had but at the last minute there was a very blue streak that grabbed my finger just like mom said ghost fingers and then I was on the carpet and then the T.V was smoking and it wasn’t my fault!!

Then I cried, because our T.V. was definitely a goner.

Mom looked at me half-cocked, assessing. Her perm frizzed upwards in the static heat. Instead of going to the hospital, we got out Monopoly and I didn’t get to be the hat, again. Mom made popcorn but I didn’t want any, because of the fingernail.

I excused myself and wandered to the bathroom. I foraged through the toiletries for the clippers.

If only I had been faster.

I snapped off the brittle eclipse into the toilet, flushing the evidence away.

Erin MacNair is from North Vancouver, BC

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