It was unseasonably hot that evening in June. A chorus of crickets filled in where the thunder was silent, being as the evening was marked by heat lightning. It was the kind of thing that folks sat on their porches to marvel at when they were too hot to go inside.
Daisy and Chip would have been a handsome couple, if they’d been old enough for sophistication. We rarely saw them apart from one another, but we never saw them pawing at each other or hanging on for dear life, the way some young people do. They were the best of friends with a spark dancing between them. Daisy had a bouncy little haircut and Chip always wore a button down shirt, even when he was out mowing his parents’ yard. We all thought they made a lovely couple and hoped they would stay here in Seward, having bright-eyed children with the right kind of values, fearing God and loving their neighbors.
They were elemental, like atoms at the heart of a chain reaction, or, more simply, like the crackle of a summer campfire with the dew settling on the ground. Yes, even the lightning spoke well of them. Magnetic, magnanimous, mirthful, they were all of these things. We thought. So we thought.
We never knew where Daisy was born. She was with us for so long, we forgot this wasn’t her birth home. What would it matter, anyway? She’d been in Seward since she was a slip of a thing, not yet in school. Still, later we said how we’d never noticed, but had since come to realize that her parents didn’t have any of her baby pictures on their walls. Now, of course it all makes sense.
It happened that muggy June evening when one of the boys in town, that Jeffrey Harris, a true devil—now mark this, he’ll never amount to anything in this life—was peeping into the Haas family’s bathroom. Apparently Daisy was taking a bath. When she…or whatever she was…got out, that terrible boy fell right off his ladder, as if struck by lightning. We thought the fall served him right and told him so. We thought his talk about “she was a he” and “he was a she” afterwards was a consequence of his fall. But then the Haas family disappeared like smoke in the air and Chip with them. That Chip must have known about Daisy’s situation the whole time. Can you imagine.
No. There are some things I can’t comprehend and shouldn’t be asked to. I’m a simple woman, who can’t be expected to understand the ways of the lightning.
* “Even the lightning spoke well of them,” used with recognition for W.S. Merwin