by Steve Cushman
MOST SUMMER AFTERNOONS, in Florida, it stormed at some point between two and four. You’d see the palm trees start to sway from the hot wind, the change in the air pressure, and knew it was coming.
Sometimes I’d see my father sitting outside in one of our red and white striped lawn chairs, sipping a beer, and staring out across the pool and backyard. I wondered what he was looking for, when behind him, inside the house, was our family. Weren’t we enough? Perhaps we were, but he also needed alone time.
This one Sunday I saw him sitting out there as a storm approached. I wanted to call to my father to come in, that he might get struck by lightning, but knew he wouldn’t listen to me.
The wind continued to pick up and then the rain started, tick-tick-tick-tick, and it kept coming harder and harder. He lifted his face to the sky, so the rain beat down on him. I could tell he was laughing from the rise and fall of his shoulders. The wind increased and a palm frond fell in one corner of the yard. Thunder, lightning, and still he sat there, face to the sky, as if to challenge the world and all it offered.
My heart thickened as I heard myself say come on, Dad, come inside, but still he sat there, arms outstretched, as the rain came in wave after wave. When he threw his empty beer can into the air, the wind blew it back behind him.
And then as quickly as it had come the rain stopped. The gray sky gave way to fast moving clouds and a blue sky and you could see steam rising off the pool deck.
My father stripped naked, confident no one could see him with our six-foot wooden fence, draped his clothes over the side of the pool, then dove in. When he emerged, he leaned against the side, and looked back toward the house and me. He waved before lowering himself into the water. Though he’d done this a dozen times, I was afraid he might not resurface, but he did. Each time he waved to me upon surfacing, playing his own sort of game. One where only he knew the rules.
Steve Cushman is a novelist and poet in Greensboro, NC. He’s published three novels, including Portisville, which won the Novello Literary Award. His first poetry collection, How Birds Fly, is the winner of the Lena Shull Book Award. That Faraway Gaze is from an in-progress novel-in-flash.