My husband hires a fellow named Lightning to do odd jobs. Thunder, Lightning's son, helps when Lightning is not enough. I've never seen Thunder. I've only heard him talking in the background.
I came face to face with Lightning last week. He needed a ride to the P.O. before it closed for the day. The apparent afternoon emergency struck out of the clear blue sky. What kind of business at the post office could be so urgent? My husband couldn't stop what he was doing to drive him, so I was tapped for the errand.
When Lightning returned to the car after speaking with the post mistress, he asked if I could run him over to Knox Shopping Center. He had a money order in hand and needed to see someone about something at the probation and paroles office, which is tucked between sweet shops with names like Anna Lou, Laura Lanes and Rubies. No one knows if the location is intended to adorn dark matters with a boutique facade, test criminals' resistance to upscale temptation, or express dry, political humor. In a small southern town like this, all kinds rub elbows.
Without asking questions, I took Lightning on this second errand. That's how we southerners are sometimes. We smile and keep from making folks feel uncomfortable or putting them on the spot. Our mamas taught us that if we have nothing nice to say then we should have the courtesy to be vague. We've all got our skeletons.
Still, I didn't know what kind of crime Lightning had committed. I surely didn't want to find out, either, so I offered him a bottle of water I found in the back of my car while he was in the probation office. He accepted it. Since then, we've had an amiable understanding between us. It's an unspoken agreement that I'll give him small gifts and he won't hold a knife to my throat.
My husband, who was unaware of Lightning's background, hasn't called on me again to transport the weatherman. I've been told to take cover, whatever that means.
When Thunder and Lightning needed a ride home the other day, my husband put down what he was doing and took them himself. They live in a humble trailer park outside of town. I picture a woman named Rain inside the trailer washing dishes and a dark cloud hovering over the tin domicile. My beloved reported that there was no Rain and no dark cloud, but that he did find more proof (as if we needed more) of southern ingenuity within the confines of that trailer park.
On one trailer's small, rectangular porch with no rails, a chihuahua barked, growled, snapped and yipped. It was determined to chew off a trespasser's ankle first chance it got. The owner of the snarling sprite, to his credit, recognized the danger the canine posed to the neighbors. Maybe he'd even seen Thunder and Lightning rolling in the distance.
The chihuahua was secured to an anchor of sorts. The remnants of an old vacuum cleaner lay scattered about the porch, possibly taken apart to be repaired and reassembled, possibly placed there to be re-purposed. A string around the dog's neck was knotted to the handle of the scrap vacuum, preventing the ferocious beast from going very far very fast.
All I could say when told about the scene was "Did you get a picture? Can you send it to me?"
"What on earth is wrong with you?" my husband said. "Of course not. I didn't want to offend Thunder and Lightening."
Like I said, we southerners know we've all got our situations. No need calling attention to what a person can't change.