In The Darkest Dark She Takes My Sleep
by Debra A Daniel
“Get up,” my grandmother says. “It’s storming. The lights are out.”
I want to say, “Of course, they are. It’s the middle of the night,” but I don’t. She’d tell my mother, and I’d be punished for sassing.
Whenever it storms, my grandmother drags her rocking chair into the hallway. There are no windows. She can’t see what’s coming. She makes me sit with her until the danger of lightning death passes.
In the dark, she recites her storm rules. No bobby pins in my hair. Lightning searches for metal. No petting my dog. Lightning seeks out animals, even jittery ones like chihuahuas. No going into the bathroom no matter how bad I have to pee. Lightning can burst through faucets and drown you in electricity.
I want to ask why she only wakes me and not my mother who’s sleeping in her pink bedroom without my father who isn’t home in the middle of the night.
I want to say I have a math test and went to bed reciting formulas for circles—area, circumference, radius—so I won’t fail, but now I’ll be sleepy and confused by circles that spin me until I’m helpless.
But I don’t speak. I sit near the creak of the rocker and listen to her story about sisters she knew when she was eleven. Sisters struck by a bolt straight out of a blue sky. Sisters who never saw it coming.
“You must watch in bright of day,” my grandmother says. “and darkest night. Especially then. That’s when no one realizes the lights have gone out and you’ve lost your power.”
The black storm surrounds us. I hold onto my pillow and listen to pour of rain, the whipping wind, and, from behind her bedroom door, the sleeping hush of my mother.
About the Author
Debra Daniel, from South Carolina, sings in a band with her husband. Publications include: The Roster, (Ad Hoc Fiction, highly commended for the Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash, 2019), Woman Commits Suicide in Dishwasher (novel, Muddy Ford Press), The Downward Turn of August (poetry, Finishing Line) As Is (poetry, Main Street Rag), With One Eye on the Cows, Things Left and Found by the Side of the Road, Los Angeles Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Kakalak, Emrys, Pequin, Inkwell, Southern Poetry Review, Tar River, and Gargoyle. Awards include The Los Angeles Review, Bacopa, the Guy Owen Poetry Prize, and SC Poetry Fellowships. Her second novella-in-flash A Family of Great Falls was shortlisted in the 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Awards and was published by Ad Hoc Fiction in July 2021. She also won third prize in the February 2022 Bath Flash Fiction Award.