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July 1, 2012, vol 8, no 2

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Steven Carter


Change of temperature; change of light; change of worlds.

Thirty years later, I still can't believe it happened, or happened the way it did. I was sitting on the end of the dock, sipping a cold Corona. A gorgeous August afternoon, clear and warm, with a hint of humidity in the air: zero boat activity on the lake.

On the west shore a mile away a tiny figure furls an orange and white beach umbrella and stuffs it inside a boat house; maybe he knows something. As I train my gaze upward to the crest of the Mission Mountain foothills, there's a mysterious quickening in the air: something changes, though I can't say exactly what; the sky is still clear and the air unmoving, but the lake seems different somehow—a touch bluer? Then, atop the foothills, where the clear-cuts begin, slow tendrils of cloud—I think of the claws of a dinosaur—appear and begin to descend the slopes, changing color from white to silver to gray as they approach the lake. At that moment the first breeze: another quickening at first, rising to intermittent wind-gusts; now the air is noticeably cooler.

I'm still working on the beer as pines and birches behind me begin to rustle, then sway, then hiss gently in the wind: much stronger now.

I can't believe what's happening. When I popped the beer, everything was different — another in a series of typical summer days; and now the tendrils of cloud have reached the lake, dissolving and re-grouping into a forty-foot high wall which proceeds to move from the west shore directly toward me. Too mesmerized to move, I watch the water change from blue, to green, to gray, to black.

The wind bumps up yet again, and for the first time I feel cold. It occurs to me that I'd better get out of there, but I remain on the dock, legs dangling, the Corona frozen in mid-sip. Another gust shoves me backward, so that I'm resting on my elbows, feeling oddly giddy: This is too comical runs through my mind.

Then things get serious. The wall of cloud is almost upon me — it's covered the distance from west shore to east in human world-record time — and I hear a branch crack from high atop a nearby pine tree. Scrambling to my feet, I throw out the remaining "spider" of beer in the lake and start running. Like a cat-'o-nine-tails, the wind begins to lash my back. Now it's a mad dash: another branch falls; an angry hornets' swarm of leaves and twigs filling the sky.

The cabin seems as far from me as the west shore from the dock, and when I finally reach it, soaked to the skin, another big branch comes flying, scything the air where my head and shoulders were a split second ago.

squirrels chattering
in a riot

no beer run today
reading by flashlight
two p.m.