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.