By Jack Wildern
“It’s a long time since I’ve ridden one of these.”
Dad wobbled off on the bike with the handlebars twisted the wrong way around. His hands on the grips in a wide arc, like he was riding a small mechanical bull. I followed behind laughing hysterically, watching his wheels cut snake like turrets in the compacted sand.
We hired the bikes at the last minute. The clouds were bubbling up over the ocean and dad said there would be a storm.
He rode it like that all the way to the house. A little place on stilts that he had booked because I was starting big school in September and as he put it, wouldn’t want to hang around with him soon.
We stood on the balcony of the little house overlooking the palm trees and the beauty of a golf coast sunset. We watched it melt into the sea under the towering pink clouds that turned purple and then black before our eyes. There was a fuzz in the air. A current carried on the breeze that raised the hair on my arms and made my hands tingle.
“I’m going in.”
“You stay safe. But you don’t run. You never run from it.”
Those last words drowned in raindrops the size of golf balls as they ricocheted off the floor and stung my naked shins. Then we were plunged into darkness. I tried to run but his hands clasped across my shoulders.
“Watch,” he shouted. “You won’t believe this.”
As crooked forks cut the sky to ribbons and a drum beat threatened to split my eardrums. As the air turned blue around us and electricity fuming and foreboding exploded across the horizon I started to understand. It was a magic show and we had front row seats.
I looked up to see my dad smiling. His grip loosened and I walked toward the edge of the balcony. I climbed the first wooden run of the guard, leaning my thighs against the damp wood. I tilted my head back, threw out my arms and shouted.
“I’m a god!”
I opened my eyes and dad was standing next to me. Rain running down his cheeks in tiny rivers.
“And I’m king of the sky!”
We laughed like we had gone mad. In that moment perhaps we had. An insane memory given to me as a gift, frozen in time.
Maybe that night was a lesson in how to face the noise. How to follow the beating of our hearts out into the darkness and face the storm. Whatever it was it stayed with me. It was there when I had my first fight. The thunder-crack of fist hitting bone. It was there when I told my boss to go fuck himself. That lightening moment of clarity that work, is just work. It was there when my mother took my hand for the last time. That fear of facing into a rain so heavy that you can barely breathe.
And it was there when I read my father’s eulogy. In front of a sea of grey faces, I told them the story of that night. I laughed. I laughed and I wept right there in front of them. Gripping the lectern so hard I thought the wood might splinter. Then, next to me, from inside the ornate wooden box came another laugh. As loud in my head as a thousand thunderclaps. And as the flames took hold and the minister closed the curtain a blinding light erupted, taking the roof from the parlor and soared sky bound into the onlooking clouds. Then the rain fell and soaked us all to the bone.
I don’t own a bike these days. But whenever I hear thunder I don’t hesitate. I head outside and laugh at the sky.
About Jack Wildern
Jack Wildern is a writer from the UK, currently studying creative writing.