It had been in the distant margin all day, looming. Against a soft blue sky it seemed billowy and pretty, relatively small so distant, but the stature was ever rising to the stratosphere. It never drew nearer but seemed still, growing, proof that stationary isn’t always best.
The air was hot, the first hot day in the year, the first hot day in memory after so many months of mild. The sun seemed brutal, but it was the air, humid. We had stopped in the late afternoon shade, resting and talking. The occasional glance north and it was unmoved. Still sitting in the same position, it was waiting, growing, all white and unassuming, if you weren’t paying attention.
By the time the sun began its descent, the distant cumulonimbus had grown exponentially and was climbing rapidly up its western side, furling back onto itself at its apex, a defined anvil. The sunset reflected off the vertical face, soft pinks and lilac blues laced with creamy white, but a shadow stretched long away from the lighted side, deep bruised lavender gray clawed along the northern horizon, menacing, going on for miles into the disappearing east. Line of sight is clear for some distance in the plains.
Josh’s bike had begun to knock again. The timing is still off. And some forty five miles back on a water stop he’d noticed a nail in his tire. Then slowing for a light in the last town we both flinched at the loud thwap of his chain skipping. More so the second and third times. We knew that sound. We were ignoring it. A few years ago, last time, it was throwing teeth. Only about ninety more miles to go and what could go wrong began to play itself out in fast moving flickers.
The sky was turning evening placid blue although it was becoming harder to see through a bank of fast moving blackish gray nimbostratus marching by. Faster and faster, they ate up more and more of the horizon, darkening the outlook. By the time we were under them, they’d grown dramatically more ominous. What looked like a fast moving cluster of clouds had slowed and had all the earmarks of a possible sudden downpour.
The weather possibilities. And his bike acting up, again. And a nail. And just as my brow furrowed and my anxiety began to chatter, stop, focus. At a focused stop the mind has no room for detailing, for the superfluous. There is no more than standard realization, no room for frill beyond the reality of what is. The reality that if it was going to rain, it was going to rain. That if Josh’s bike was going to breakdown, it was going to breakdown. That if it was all going to hell in a handbasket, it’s allocated for hell and there’s no stopping the delivery. And that the mind could worry about what may be or could center in what is. And I breathed and here and there through the breaks in low hanging dark grey clouds I could see white billowy evening prairie clouds above and pallid blue twilight sky.
Ahead, a mileage sign. The next town was half the distance I thought it was from that point. And ahead the sky was clear, no rain. When I finally looked back in the mirror the clouds had grown darker and more severe, angled sharply and dark. I stopped looking back. Ahead the stars were coming out.
Overhead the stars shined all the way home through the dark and that same looming cloud in the northern distance lit the skyline with spectacular rapid succesion lightning, never coming nearer than the horizon.