It wasn’t as if there were no fair warnings.

The sky, which had aleady been a deep gray most of the morning, was now being undercut by a black cover, not so much like clouds but smoke belched from an anonymous chimney from some distant laboring boiler. The air was already so thick with humidity that you could grab and ball it up in your hand. Your skin crawled with electricity.

This was not going to end well.

I left work early to try to beat the storm home but there was no chance of success, The traffic was stopped dead on the highway more than once by the downpour and the lightning bolts cut thru the sky with a barbed angry charge. I escaped off the highway to try and take the back way home but parts of my usual route were blocked by deep water or thick branches snapped and laying in the road.

On the radio, I heard that a landmark gazebo built in the early 20th century in my hometown had its legs knocked out from underneath and the peaked roof had pancaked to the ground. History was now being taken apart.

When I finally made it to my driveway, I opened the garage door expecting several inches of rain – but the concrete floor was dry as was the basement and playroom that always seemed to leak water thru the window frames. Even my workshop below, at the weakest corner of our house, showed no water. I looked out the back door to check the yard but it was clean – whatever was going to break and fall had done so earlier in the year.

Eventually the rain stopped and, seeing the break in the weather, I leashed Old Pepper for her evening walk. Stepping outside, the clouds were already clearing in the west and  pink tint colored their edges. When I came back inside the house, I picked up The Brunette and drove towards Sea Cliff beach for what I thought would be a spectacular sunset. But it turned out still be too gray and a bit too late.

We stood by the narrow boardwalk they had built looking out over the harbor. Leaning on the rail that separated us from the sand that separated us from the water, we saw the villagers had come out as if nothing had happened, debating the latest politics on the wooden benches, walking mutts and pedigrees who stopped for the occasional stroke on the head, children who now worked their way thru the network of wood and plastic tubing of the makeshift monkey bars the town had built on the inside edge of the beach.

In the water, two men were up to their knees, looking down, sometimes bending into the water, reaching for something underneath, inspecting it, and either dropping it back or putting it into a pail they were carrying. Nearby, a toddler watched them, following along the edge, imitating them as they knelt down and picked up shells for himself.

There was no philosophy to delve into, no great questions to be asked, no profound answers coming. Instead we listened to the soft lapping of the water’s edge, followed the last of the sunset, and reached for the moored boats sitting silently in the water, lazily held up by Neptune’s fingers.

Just another ordinary day.

Sea Cliff Harbor July 2012
© Jeff Kopito

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