By: Roger A Wilbanks
Baseball is really a very symmetrical game when you get down to it. Nine players, nine innings. Three strikes, three outs. It’s balanced and that’s what I always liked about it. I’ve loved baseball as long as I can remember. I still have the Dodgers hat my old man got me when he took me to Ebetts Field to see that Negro Jackie Robinson. I was wearing it that day, come to think of it. Well, when you look at me in terms of baseball, I should have been out 2 innings ago. I have been struck by lightning seven times, and none of them finished me off.
I was playing manhunt with the kids from the neighborhood when it happened the first time. Manhunt was what us Bay Ridge kids called hide and go seek. We couldn’t call it hide and go seek cause that’s what the shitkickers called it. Ours had to be edgy and city so we called it manhunt.
There I was, hiding in the world’s greatest spot on top of the water tower on top of my apartments. It was a doosey of a spot and I had to do some hard work getting to it. I found a way through the fence around it and didn’t tell nobody for weeks. I was saving it for a day like this. I was determined to be the first kid on the block to get past the 5-hour hunt.
We started timing ourselves when Jimmy McClure got a watch for his birthday. Jimmy was a fat kid and couldn’t run unless there was dinner at the end of the trip. That made him our official timekeeper.
From the top of my tower I could see the whole block and most of the alleys. I watched all of the fellas looking for me in all the wrong places and it was all I could do not to laugh and give myself away. I heard Jimmy call out the fourth hour and I knew I was home free.
Till the clouds rolled in, that is.
You would have thought they were soldiers marching into town the way they just came in like that, but one second it’s daylight, the next it’s night. It was as dark out as if it were nighttime, but it was only 3 in the afternoon. Out of nowhere came this bright white light I won’t ever forget. It flashed behind me so sharp and so bright it cast a shadow of me onto the building across the alley. That’s how the guys found me.
All of a sudden, there I am standing on the tower and everyone’s just looking up at me when it hit me. It felt like I just got punched, only all over. Next thing I know I’m laying on the roof and my clothes are burning. The bolt hit me on the left shoulder ad made my whole body go numb. The fellas clowned on me later saying it looked like I was shot out of one of them cannons at the circus but they weren’t laughing then.
Carrey White was the first one on the roof to find me. He was the older kid that always called everyone “Cuz” whether they were related or not. Folks said it was on account he didn’t know who his father was and he was just being polite…just in case, you know? He threw me over his shoulder after he put out the fire on my shirt and hauled me down to the stoop like some goddamn fireman.
Some jackass threw cold water in my face and they took me to my ma. The doc showed up at my apartment about an hour later and looked me over. “Struck by lightning, you say?” he said, “Looks like he was shot if you ask me, but he’ll live. He’ll lose the nail on that hand but otherwise he’s fit as a fiddle.” And like that, I survived being struck by lightning.
I went through a whole world war and a half before it happened again. I just got outta Korea when I decided to go back to school and make something out of myself. I was going to go to school in Nebraska to study geology. I was waiting at a bus stop in Omaha when one of them Great Plains Gully Washers hit. Seventeen grown men huddled under a piece of tin three feet by five hoping to stay dry. I got under it last so it was my ass that got to hang out.
That’s where it hit me.
Square on the ass.
The guys there said my hair shot out like it was al trying to get off my head in every direction possible and I flew forward like some big foot just kicked me. I lost all the hair on my ass and balls from that one but still managed to stay alive.
The next year I was mowing the grass in front of the house I was renting while at school. Not a cloud in the fucking sky. Except for one, that is. It was a small cloud but it moved pretty fast. I saw it, I know it saw me because I saw it take a left turn and start flying right towards me. I swear by all the saints and martyrs it was following me. It zeroed in on me, standing bare-ass exposed in the middle of a yard with this big hunk of metal in my hands.
That one burned my right arm and I lost two more nails.
Two years later, I was done with school and the constant struggle of telling anyone who would listen that the cloud was after me. I wound up in Dallas working for the park department. I was a glorified trash man, picking up after the brats in the park, but people left me alone and I got to take it pretty much easy. I had taken the advice of an Indian fella I met in Omaha and carried around a pitcher of water anytime I was outside. Everyone thought this was funny, but since I worked outside I could pass it off as my water break. The docs wanted to have me committed and spend the rest of my life in a cold yellow room. I tried to explain to them that I wasn’t crazy. Someone upstairs must just be wicked pissed at me and wants to take me out. The more they miss, the madder they get. They wouldn’t listen though, no one would. I was taking the trash out of a downtown park on another clear, cloudless day when out of nowhere ZAP I got stung.
I just sat there on the street like a dead body looking up at the sky and I swear I saw the cloud that hit me smile. The docs backed off of me a bit after that. You get hit 4 times and something strange happens to the people around you. They start distancing themselves from you; like they’re scared one might miss and hit them instead. Newspapers all over the states wrote stories about me and I was on all 3 TV stations.
I was famous and hated every second of it.
Every time I tried to explain what was happening, people would just laugh and ask me why I couldn’t just be happy I was such a lucky person. LUCK? I would ask. I'd been struck by lightning four times more than the average American. I left town after a year and no shit…while I was driving my Chevy back to Brooklyn, I got zapped again. That one blasted me out of my car and fried off all my hair. Everyone I knew started treating me like I was a walking dead man. There were benefits though. I never bought another drink at Clancy’s bar when I ended up back in Brooklyn. I was a draw, he’d say. People would pop in just to look at me and if they were brave enough, try to shake my hand and see if they got shocked. Some jerk from a comic book company thought it was a brilliant idea to ask me if I wanted to be in my own comic book.
It cost me my last $300 to fix Clancy’s window after I sailed the bum through it.
I rented a boat and took it out onto the ocean to have it out once and for all with God. He’d been trying to kill me for the better part of 30 years and I was pretty sick of it. So picture me out there on a boat a half mile from land screaming like a banshee on a cloudy day that I ain’t gonna take it no more when out of nowhere ZZZT. I got blown overboard and fished out by the captain who called me the craziest sonofabitch he ever laid eyes on.
I moved to Arizona after that where it almost never rains and tried to make my peace with God but I guess he had one more up his sleeve. I saw him coming though and this time, there were witnesses. They told the cops after I got zapped that all they saw was this 60 year old man running and screaming “Not again!” and they looked up and saw this cloud the size of a schoolhouse following him when ZAP they saw this same 60 year old man fly 10 feet into the air and land on his ass. I broke my hip that time which turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Rose was a nurse at the hospital where they put me and I fell in love with her instantly. She fell for me too. We were like two silly butt teenagers, sick with love. We’ve been together 10 years and I ain’t been hit one time since.
Not by lightning that is.
Rose told me this morning she was leaving me for another man, a doctor at her hospital. She was sorry but that was the way it was. There wasn’t any use crying over spilled milk, I should just be an adult about it. We fought when we were together and sure there were times when things weren’t sunny and clear, but we loved each other. At least I thought we did.
Guess I got hit one more time, and this one hurts the most.
Well…if you’re reading this, then that means you found me. Sorry about the mess but the 12-gauge was all I could find. Just do me two favors. First, don’t tell Rose how much she hurt me. And last, when you're wheeling me outside, just do me a solid one and look up to see if there’s a cloud the size of a schoolhouse closing in on me. If there is, I'd get the hell out of the way and I hope that you're wearin' rubber gloves.
Based on the true story of Roy Sullivan, a man struck seven times by lightning before taking his own life at the age of 71 in 1983 over an unrequited love.
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