By Matt Garabedian
“Winn god! Thunner god!” my nephew, Kieran, yelled from the other room. The wind picked up, the sky darkened, and rain began to speckle the window. I finished washing the lunchtime dishes and listened to the rising ruckus.
“Thunner god!” he yelled again. A low rumbling in the distance echoed his call.
Curious, I crept down the short hallway to investigate and snuck a peek. He stood on his bed, summoning the maelstrom. A makeshift cape, his favorite blanket, draped over his shoulders with corners clutched close to his chest. With a soup ladle high above his head, he commanded, “Thunner!”
The rumbling drew closer. Kieran stood tall, chubby thighs challenging the elastic of his pull-on trainers. With classic heroism, he proclaimed, “I make thunner!” He shot me an impish smile, and then he turned back to his magic scepter. He thrust it skyward, provoking another crash of thunder.
I leaned through the door jamb. “Hey, bud, it’s time for your nap. Your mom was always very clear on the routine; lunch then nap.”
“No! No nap!” The winds started to churn the darkening clouds. Biting wind coursed through a partially open window. I crossed the room and shut it as thunder rattled the casing.
“I make winn! I make thunner!”
The sky scintillated and roared. The lights flickered. Lightning struck nearby, reflected upon the glass of the photo on his dresser, a ragged diagonal separating Kieran from his mother.
At this, Kieran jumped off his bed and ran into the Jack-and-Jill that connected to his sister’s room. I chased after him. We ran through the vacant bedroom and down the hallway. Fractured shadows filtered into the hall as lightning lit up the sky.
I caught up with him standing at the large bay window facing the street. The sky went black, and rain roiled in the street. Backlit by the storm, Kieran was majestic. His eyes gleamed, sea-green and turbulent. With his mane of red hair, he was the ancient weather god.
“No nap,” he protested. “Thunner!”
The house rattled with a deafening crack as lightning struck the utility pole across the street. A stroboscopic flash illuminated the pair of perpendicular skid marks meeting gravely in the intersection. Palinopsic lights from the ambulance continued to flash, sparkling off the myriad shards of glass that remained. In a flash of lightning, I thought I saw my sister still lying lifelessly in the street. I swallowed my tears as the rain washed the hallucination away.
The power went out, and Kieran intently looked for his mother in the storm. His godly resolve faltered for a moment.
“She’s not coming home.”
“I make thunner,” he stated resolutely. The quiver of his lip, however, betrayed his cold determination.
“I miss your mom, too. We’ll get through this somehow. I promise.” I lied. “But, it is time for a nap.”
“No!” He protested, and the storm boiled behind his pupils. His fiery hair raised in an electrified hackle, and the house rattled again. “No nap! Thunner! Lightsning!”
He pushed me away; he clawed and kicked as I carried him down the hall. A mythic stead’s fury raised by my nephew’s ire. Thunderous hoofbeats rattled the house upon its foundation. Lightning crashed with ferocity befitting this wild beast. The rain pounded steadily on the roof. The more he fought, the more violent the storm became.
We returned to his room. I gently laid the photo face-down upon the dresser. I sat on his bed. Kieran awkwardly curled up in my lap. Gently, I soothed his hair upon his dampened brow. He pushed my hand away. He glared at me with heavy eyes, not wanting to admit I had wrangled him. He fidgeted and squirmed as he reached for the ladle that had fallen on the floor by the bed. I gently kicked it away. Only once before had I watched Kieran. At the time, my sister had warned me that he might fight nap time. Sing to him, she had suggested.
A classic by Bill Withers came to mind. I knew precious few words, but I could hum the tune, its resonant bassline providing a solid bedrock from which to steady myself. Exhaustion got the upper hand; while he wanted to fight his nap, he had little fight left to give. My deep, sonorous humming calmed him. He snuggled his head into my chest as I faked my way through the song. His tense muscles relaxed, and his breath slowly deepened.
The storm began to calm, and he settled in my arms. The wind died down with each yawn, and the electricity snapped back on. As he drifted off to sleep, the rain stopped, and the sky lightened. By the time I heard gentle snoring, blue peeked from behind the clouds.
I laid him down on his bed and covered him with his blanket. I picked up the soup ladle. In his sleep, he murmured, “Thunner,” to which, in the distance, a low rumble of thunder answered.