The impatient machinations of modern life can still be brought to a halt by a storm. Cars, airplanes and trains may persevere through a minor squall. People may don rain coats and wield umbrellas through nigh horizontal rain fall. But this movement is not indomitable. The sky can make an offering to the earth that will wring the patience out of even the most peaceful traveller. In such a tempest, air traffic controllers clock out and go home. Police stop their patrols and those caught out and exposed seek shelter in any place that can provide it. For all human beings, at some time, need shelter from a storm.
Those who were attentive took the first drops of rain and the crooked wind for the harbingers that they were and pulled into the last tavern for miles. The highway was well travelled but this was the bare stretch, a straight road reaching from the desert to the plains. At one end, darkness. At the other, the dim dying light of the sun and dark clouds that already were emptying themselves in the distance. A hostile horizon.
The roadhouse was also an inn and its last vacancy had been filled when the emergency broadcast system sent out its warnings on televisions and car stereos. Shortly after that, the road went silent and the disparate voices of those who travelled it now crowded the ears of an unprepared bartender. Others sat at tables with their eyes turned to the tv for news of the weather. Three men had resigned themselves to their confinement and sat defeated in a poorly lit booth in the corner along the wall. Upon their table sat bottles of beer, some motorcycle helmets and cell phones that had lost their signals miles ago.
The murmur of the bar was brought to silence for a moment by a thunderclap that shook the earth. The windows lit up as it sounded and the drizzle of drops atop the vaulted roof became a pounding. Children clutched their parents and lovers interlocked fingers. In the corner, the riders sighed and one of them spoke out.
“Who’s got a good story?”
The man with the black helmet said that yes, he might have a tale and when the second round came he began to tell it.