This story is dedicated to my friend Amy, who has been getting picked on by the Universe lately. Cheer up, it could be worse.
My car shook with a massive thunderclap as the man walking a little ways up the road was suddenly and violently struck by lightning. I slammed on the brakes and was preparing to call 911 (or the morgue) when he got up and shook himself slightly.
“Hey! Hey you!” I called, getting out. “Are you hurt?”
He looked over, muzzily, I thought. “No, I’m fine.” Actually, he sounded resigned more than anything.
“Good. I mean, dang! Are you sure?”
He started to walk towards me. “It happens a lot. Hey, do you have a quarter?”
“Heck, I’ll give you a whole dollar,” I said. I kept looking for signs of damage but he looked fine.
“No, just a quarter, please. When this happens, my mouth tastes like pennies. I like to suck on a quarter, just for variety.”
With his monotone voice, I couldn’t tell if he was joking, so I gave him a Tic Tac. Maybe I was just happier handing him something non-conductive. He accepted it with a nod.
“So, what do you mean by ‘happens a lot’?” I asked.
“I get struck a couple times a week,” he said, sucking on his Tic Tac, like a scurvy sailor sucking on a lime. “More when it’s cloudy. Actually when it’s stormy, my town hooks me up to the grid. It blows the transformers every time, but our mayor’s not that smart.” He shrugged.
“And you’re really okay?” I said, unable to move past that basic point.
He looked at me for a moment, then shouted, “Okay? Of course I’m not okay! Do you know how lonely it is being a man who attracts lightning? No kid wanted to play on the jungle gym with me in elementary school. And girlfriends? Forget about it! I actually do like long walks on the beach, but I’ve never had one. I’ve only had short ones, followed by a trip to the hospital for whoever I’m with. Do you know what that’s like?”
“No,” I said, with perfect honesty. “Are you okay physically though . . . ?”
“Physically, I’m fine. Doctors have warned me that it might cause lowered intelligence, but that’s baloney. I’m at least as smart as anyone I know.” He stopped suddenly and licked his lips. “Hey, that quarter you gave me was pretty good. Do you have any more?”