There are thunderclouds piling up over a highcorn field and a cooler, wetter, breeze coming in too that he can smell, that is filling his lungs as he continues down that road, lengthening his stride so that he can maybe make it home before all the water falls. The tempo of pavement hitting feet, gh gh gh gh, increases and then holds steady as all that fills him is the stride, the breath, his fixed eyes on the end of the road. The pavement ends up ahead, with a stop sign and everything. And the pavement; It’s gravelly concrete, old and rutted and narrow and silent but for his feet and his breath and the corn rustling breeze. Gh gh…gh…gh…and he has reached the end, hands on his hips and turning. Looking back down the flatroad past the square clumps of trees and toward Town. The corn is green and higher than his head. Fast growing fields this year, with all the rains. The clouds have drawn up overhead, blackly piled castle-high and reaching low, weighted down.
A drop hits and then four more.
He starts running back, really running. As the rain begins bombing down he catches a bright flash in his left eye. Gh gh gh gh gh gh and then the crack of it. It’s maybe half a town over. He’s drawn even with the trees when flash gh gh gh gh crack. He runs faster, form breaking apart now. Underneath the spotty tree canopy, now, the rain is lessened, feels more remote. Slowing up, wiping off his brow and eyes he can see more clearly up the road. It is empty of everything but the dark press of rain; The air is full of the rolling rumbles, the flashes.
He is standing there, soaked and panting, considering it.
“It will end.” he says
The trees are roaring with the storm.
Reaching a decision, he sits facing the field and the black sky, pulling in the thick wet air.
“It will end.”
The Sun has already quickened high overhead by the time Danny steps out of the house that Monday. Sloping down through the riot of a lawn and hitting the sidewalk in stride, self-consciously shoving his hair over, checked shirt neatly tucked, stomach full of Apple Jacks cereal, feeling, in short, that almost everything is in its proper place, that he is ready for this, he sets course to the exit from The Grove.
Clipping his way past the modest square houses, the modest square yards, the modestly planted smallish trees, through the wide rivers of unshaded pavement, he began to imagine what everyone would say when they all met. He and Sarah would talk first, then would propose it. DJ would love the idea but be too busy to go. He could give them good ideas of what to do. Annie would sit and smile and speak last, when they asked her what she thought she would say something sweetly open-ended. Eddie would want to leave tomorrow and would forget about it by the end of the week.
Maybe it would end up with only him and Sarah actually going; Maybe.
Hunching around the corner, hitting N. Main and heading south, he can see Joe D- up ahead. People say that Joe always carries a gun.
“Hi, Joe” he says.
Joe just looks at him and nods.
The rest of the walk to Simple he thinks about Sarah, wonders if she’ll remember they agreed to meet early.
He hits Union St. and turns left, walks half a block, turns, opens the door, walks in. The sign over the door says:
He glances around, steps to the counter.
“Just a coffee for here.”
He glances around again. Nobody.
Just as he’s settling in, Sarah walks in, comes over without making any move toward the counter, sits, looks at him.
“Hey, we should…” he starts.
“I heard you had an adventure yesterday,” she cuts across.
Her eyes are open wide but he can see a smile somewhere in them.
“You could say that. Got poured on during my run.”
“And you stood under a tree? For an hour? In the lightning and everything?”
“Who’d you talk to?”
“Eddie thought it was hilarious.”
“I was sitting down, actually. And I don’t think it was an hour.”
She crossed her arms now, leans back.
“The one time you run without me.” she says.
“The storm of the whole summer.” she says.
“Sitting under a tree is stupid.” she says.
“I know.” he says.
She sighs to her feet, orders a coffee.
Watching her there, he knows that when she comes back they’ll talk about nothing and soon the others will be there.
Right at 2 o’clock, Ed and Annie walk in.
Ten minutes later DJ boils into the room, out of breath.
“Sorry, lighting took a while.” he says.
“That’s OK, Danny?” Sarah leads off.
Looking around the table, taking a breath,
“Let’s all go on a road trip to Chicago. We can leave in two weeks, stay up there with my uncle. He’s got a nice place right in the city. We can stay there as long as we want. It’ll be fun.”
Sarah gives him a look, then,
“We could stay until school starts, explore the city! It won’t be expensive because Danny’s uncle will let us stay with him and probably pay for a lot of the other stuff.”
“That’s right.” he says.
Eddie is fidgeting excitedly and looking around at everyone’s faces.
Annie is looking down but the corner of her mouth is turned up.
DJ is frowning,
“I’m running audio for Bob and his guys that Saturday. Maybe I can reschedule with them or something. The trip sounds cool.”
“OK,” says Danny.
“You know, let’s sleep on it.” says Sarah.
Two weeks shaking themselves out. Two weeks take off the sweatshirt after the warm up and run past, stretching legs out for the heel-led impacts. Two weeks in a conversation in the corner, wrapped up, oblivious to their own passing and then, the next time you life your eyes from the latte and the paper they’re both gone and you don’t know when they left or where to. But they are gone and for good, you know that.
This is how the next two weeks passed: Quickly sliding by while Danny’s head was down. Moving through the door and into the right. They left and Danny realized; My God we’re all leaving tomorrow. Chicago is happening. What do I need to do?
The van he already had. The uncle, part of the gas money, the idea still unformed but shot through with the outside bright and the inside hope and the images o the others swimming out somewhere northwest of him, where the great city lay.
The city. He’s been there only once, driving through I-94 from south to north through the heart of the city up to ___ Lake, for the wedding of a family friend when he was still small but not too small to remember. And then the drive back down from north back into Indiana again through the entrenched heart of the city, the train keeping pace with the car and now lagging behind, the overpasses flashing past the sunroof in the dark as he held the moon in his eyes and meditated on that deep interrupted dark between the moon and him and dreamed of casting up some bridge to go out there to it, or some rope to draw it down into the deep busy lit-up dark of the great city. He would draw it down if he could, but not to keep it for himself, to put it in his pocket. He would draw it down to the moon-low point just above his head that was still high to him, small as he was, and, leaping, embrace it. He would hold it high up overhead and everyone on the street would see it and know that he had drawn it down but not to keep, but to give it away.
In this way Danny thought of the time they would share together in the great city. Blurred streetlights and the well-known faces and that high round light looking down from spheres above; the pale light that saw them all and was seen and that he would draw down, one day, and give to her.