Seven Lightning Strikes
Graphic: "Electrotherapy," Peter Schwartz
No one to see how his eyes had been on the waving pine boughs as the ump raised his hands and the players hustled in. No one to him just a few beats behind, as he crossed the infield just past second base. No one to see his every hair stand on end. A flash as quick as an eyeblink, thunder booming in the chest. No light shown in his eyes. Only his boots blown halfway to first as if he'd leapt ahead of himself.
He doesn't telling anyone his heart flutters, his ears ring. The strike means he was born to preach. People flock to him. The Itinerant Miracle. Witness the Man Who Lived Thru Lightning. Lazarus in the Flesh. He's baptizing a young believer in the river outside Palm Beach. "Luck," he bellows to the multitudes, "is just another word for fate." Amen. "We all have mountains to climb." Preach on. "I baptize you in the name‹" A dazzle of light. The girl shudders in his arms, passes on to the Second Birth. He can't feel his body as he carries the girl's to shore.
Hammering, this time, out of the open blue. Right in the middle of the duck boat like a bolt from Zeus. When he wakes he feels his hairless arms, smooth brow‹the knot of burned flesh on his scapula. He remembers it like a dream. Fish swimming just beneath the surface, the water lucid. He closes his eyes and sees the stripes on the bass, can almost count the spots on the freckled bream. In the mirror, he sees the eyelashes are gone too. How like the hairless creatures of creation we are, he thinks.
How much more miraculous is he now? A man struck down by 300 kilovolts three times, a man still on the right path? This time during the Invitation at a revival in downtown Rhode Island. No rain. Just people waving their hands, some swooning, some speaking in tongues. Only wind gusting off the river and across Memorial Hill. No thunder warning. Quick, sudden, like death to Ananias. Blasts him backwards out of his Samsonite metal folding chair, right out of his toenails. When he rises again from the hospital table after minor surgery, the dumbstruck town rejoices.
Hell's Canyon, Idaho. Through his pick-up's window‹a direct blow to the temple, his hair blazes hot and fast like dry pine. He says, I saw the beast who comes from the Euphrates and the many heads of the European Union and strange flowers blooming on Megidda. I saw the 1906 Earthquake in San Francisco. An angel bent me over and struck me with his rod. With each blow he yelled out a name, each one standing for the twelve tribes of Israel. I threw up and the vile became a gold butterfly. The angel said it stands for all who cannot contain the words of terror which reign in the hearts and minds of men. He said if the rulers of this age understood God's wisdom they would not crucify the Lord of Glory again.
Golfing on July 4th at 4:00 in the afternoon in Panama, Florida. The most likely time and place to be struck on the planet. He has nothing to lose. No one can believe how he goes on living. His fiancé fans herself in the golf cart. The nine iron flies from his white glove which flies from his outstretched hands which flies from his thumbnails. His fiancé leaves him, says she needs space. "Thank you," he says to the nurse, coming in with food from the hospital cafeteria. "You're a lucky man," she says.
"Not all who wander are lost," he says. He drops a clay pot on the stage. It shatters. Lightning blows through the stained-glass window. His body seizes. His white robes flutter. Someone says, "O my God." Someone says to call 911. His robe is singed black. They're carrying him away on a stretcher when he opens his eyes and says, "Who will pick up the vessel's pieces?" I make a profession of faith on the spot. He shoots himself three times in the heart the next day. They say from losing in love. They say a lot of funny things.