The heat of the day rises up from the pavement, and the trees and the grasses and the flowers and the bugs drink down the water all around. Pedascule empties his flask and feels the warmth inside him and all around him and finds himself the world and of the world. He smiles and thinks about a cigarette and thinks I could, I could not, and does not, glad to be ahead of the storm, master of his own whatever it is. The dark green Jetta pulls the crest of an I-79 rolling hill, and Pedascule looks off to the left and off to the right and from both sides the sky rolls towards him in swirls of grays and blacks and streaks of white (orange-tinged) like two great purple palms swirling with lifelines and lovelines and fingerprints and this is how the whole world could be in one’s hands, he thinks. He crests another hill and the horizon sits dark. Black clouds solid across in front of him, held at bay by a single orange streak while the blue sky narrows and shortens and narrows and shortens, a self-reductive geometrical pattern.
He pats the breast pocket of his button-down blue graduation shirt but leaves the smokes where they are. He flicks off the c.d. player and on his headlights. He rolls up the windows snug as he can get them and battens down the doorlocks. He breathes deep the stale smoky air and holds that breath while the interstate pulls him along. The blue sign by the side of the road offers a rest stop in two miles and another in thirty-four, and, time and space being relative, he decides to ride this one out. The blue sign by the side of the road says, “Rest Stop 1 Mile,” and the interstate pulls him on. The blue sign by the side of the road says, “Rest Stop Next Right,” and the tractor trailers line up on the off ramp. Pedascule raises his left eyebrow in what he believes is an ambiguously smug gestured. He pushes the knuckles of both hands together and a dozen small pops break up the sound of the engine and the tires and the silence of an afternoon full of promise, as formulas for coefficients of friction and velocity and mass and rates of acceleration draw themselves on the windshield and wash away. Pedascule believes life is a complicated series of simple equations and that a lightning bolt is a concentrated atmospheric discharge of electricity which can travel at the speed of sixty-thousand-miles-per second. And the great gray and black and white palms of storm cloud blot out the last baby blue up above and close in around him, a tiny conscious bug of a god, but (he tries to shake the thought) a mighty bug-god, nonetheless.
The first wave hits the Jetta from the left and pushes the car onto the rumble strip and blots out the remainder of bright day. Then he is in a carwash, the blown-water on metal sound comforts him, and he feels the safety which is 3,230 pounds of German engineering of metal and plastic and rubber and, yes, of course, combustible fluid. And just as the rain washes the world away, the wipers draw it again in a blurred and distinct swath of dark gray trough of highway between the green green waving hills. Pedascule leans the steering wheel to the constant left, holding steady against the wind and rain. The taillights of a less fit vehicle shine up from the median, but he knows it might be more dangerous to stop than to drive on, and he takes note of the mile marker to call emergency services for said disabled vehicle at that next rest stop. The wind relinquishes and the rain slows to a steady downpour and a single streak of ionized white light brightens, dims, and disappears like a multi-filamented bulb. He realizes he has not been breathing and pats his breast pocket. I could, I could not. And he flicks the c.d. player back on and back off. No need for that right now, he settles into his own racing heart. He glances down at his flask and reminds himself to fill it up as well at that rest stop.