By Andrew Looney

A bolt of lightning smashed down from the sky, and a boom of thunder roared across the city, through the windows of my bedroom, and directly into my skull.

I woke up. In that sudden awareness, I had no idea of who I was, where I was, or what was going on. All I knew was that I was awake and that something very loud was going on. I stood, buck naked, in the center of my bed.

I listened to the sound of raindrops slapping against the windowpane. Then came another eruption of lightning, and, almost immediately, another booming echo of thunder. The storm was very close, the lightning was striking right near where I was. I jumped down from the bed and went over to stand by the window.

The storm was very wet and very violent. The rain water streamed down the windowsill, the lightning lit the room up like daylight, and every time a thunderclap struck, it felt like an earthquake.

I walked out of the bedroom, down the hall, and into the kitchen. I left the lights off, skulking through the darkness, my path occasionally lit up by the flashes of lightning. In the kitchen I opened the fridge and the small light inside the icebox dimly illuminated the room as I fixed myself a midnight snack: orange juice and a sourdough chicken salad sandwich.

I sat in the darkness by the kitchen window, eating my sandwich and watching the thunderstorm. The storm was moving away now; the time lag between the flash of lightning and the crash of thunder was increasingly long. The rain was letting up also, reduced from torrential to a mere drizzle.

I decided to go back to bed. I slipped under the sheets again, but quickly found that I was wide awake and that going back to sleep would not be an easy task. I tossed and turned, various unconnected thoughts floating through my brain, listening for the distant and now infrequent sounds of the thunderstorm. Finally I decided that I might as well get up, since I wasn't managing to sleep.

I went back into the kitchen, in search of chocolate. Chocolate, I thought, was just what was needed to round out my midnight snack. Unfortunately, there was none to be found. My big glass bowl of snack candy, which had most recently been filled with miniature peanut butter cups, had gone empty a few days before and I'd not yet managed to restock it. There was ice cream in the freezer - but alas, only vanilla, and I lacked hot fudge.

There was only one thing to do: go out and find something.

Peering out through the window, I could see that the rain had now stopped completely. The pavement outside my apartment building gleamed with rainwater in the streetlight.

I put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and took my bicycle down the stairs and out onto the street. It was a beautiful night! The air was cool, but was stirred up with a warm, almost balmy breeze. Everything smelled delicious, the rain having washed away the usual charred-exhaust smell of the city. It was 2 o'clock in the morning. The sky was breaking up; the thick bank of clouds had gaps at random points. Suddenly, a new hole appeared in the clouds and I could see the moon, a thick crescent. I watched it for a moment, then the clouds drifted further and again obscured it. I mounted my bicycle and rode off down the street. Little splashes of rainwater leapt and danced up and down my bare legs.

Two blocks north and 1 block east was a donut shop. I quickly arrived there and went in, leaning my bicycle up against the plate glass window where I'd be able to keep an eye on it from inside. The powerful smell of fresh donuts invaded my skull as I stepped into that warm, well lighted chamber.

I ordered 2 chocolate frosted donuts and a small glass of milk from the sultry, half-awake waitress behind the counter. I sat on the red-upholstered barstool, eating my donuts and rotating my barstool back and forth, a quarter of a turn clockwise, then back counterclockwise.

I rode home again through the rain-soaked streets of the city, meandering back and forth around the blocks near my building for a long time before actually going home. The city was desolate. Occasionally I saw a car or heard a motorcycle somewhere in the distance, and every now and then a car would actually drive past me. I saw 2 people; one a distraught looking woman hurrying purposefully down the sidewalk, the other a violent looking youth sitting on the hood of a parked car. I hurried on.

Finally I went back up to my apartment. I stripped off my damp clothing and flopped into bed. Now I was able to sleep.

This story appears in My Secret World. Copyright © 1985 by Andrew Looney.

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