AT 2:50 P.M. ON JUNE nineteenth, while I readied the backyard for my fifteenth birthday, I dodged mowing over an exposed tree root, but I didn’t see my brother’s baseball glove until Daddy’s John Deere riding mower was inches away. Then … BAM. The leather glove wedged inside the mower’s deck and stopped the blade.
I stopped driving and pondered what to do. All I knew about the mower was how to fill the gas tank, check the oil, and start it. After that, the mower went fast when I raised the lever toward the rabbit symbol, and slow when I lowered it to the turtle symbol. Just being able to drive the thing without killing myself was a plus.
A wet June breeze blew strands of my long hair across my face, covering my eyes while I sat for a moment beneath the oak tree in my backyard. I decided to look at the damage underneath. Not fix it—I had no idea how lawnmowers worked. But I needed to see by what degree Daddy would be angry with me.
I pulled my hair back into a bun, turned off the engine and yelped as the sky let loose another round of drenching rain. Rain had plagued most of Upper St. Clair all day, which had left me with no other choice but to race finishing mowing the lawn before my birthday party that Thursday afternoon. Now it looked like the chore would go unfinished.
I had put off mowing the sizeable yard earlier in the week because of a dental appointment on Monday, a sprained right ankle on Tuesday after slipping in the tub while getting out of the shower, and spending all day at Kennywood yesterday where my family and I celebrated my brother and sister’s birthday. I was not going to disappoint my parents on my birthday. I had my heart set on that box set of hard to find Best Courtroom Dramas to add to my growing collection of law movies, and Mom had taken the Barnes and Noble coupons from Daddy’s study when she, Dave, and Amy left to go shopping at South Hills Village Mall an hour ago.
The rain soaked my red KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON T-shirt and chilled my back while I dismounted the mower, got on my hands and knees, and peered beneath the deck. I had no idea what to look for—I was never going to be mechanically inclined like my mom and brother. So, I stood and scampered to the tree trunk and kept dry beneath some heavy branches. Thankfully, there was no lightning like late last night. The flashes of light and booms of thunder had kept me awake past midnight. And when the storm had subsided and I fell asleep, I dreamed of being alone, lost in woods and looking for Daddy, panicking until I made my way back to my parents’ spacious Craftsman home and found him standing in front of the garage. As I ran to him in that weird never-getting-closer way, rain fell and a flash of bright white light had engulfed him. When the light vanished, he was gone.
Stupid dream! It had awakened me in a panic the same moment a flash of lightning filled my bedroom with a few seconds of bright light, which left me cowering like a baby beneath my blanket afterward until sleep finally came to me.
Now, taking a deep breath to calm my anxiety, I fetched my iPhone from its case attached to waistline of my blue jeans and glanced at the time. 2:59. Daddy would be home any minute.
I refused to let either the ball glove accident or the rain dampen my spirits. I had campaigned to my parents all year not to celebrate my birthday on the same day as my triplet brother and sister who had been born before midnight on June 18, fifteen years ago. I had been born on June 19, seven minutes after midnight, so it was only fair that I celebrate my birthday today.
At 3:02, the rainfall turned into a hard downpour and the oak’s branches did little to keep me dry. I glanced at the house and saw my orange tabby cat sitting in a window, watching and waiting for me. Three o’clock was Perry Mason’s feeding time.
I ran to the left side of the mower and pushed it toward the garage. After three steps and nearly losing my footing, I looked up and saw that Daddy, home from his lawyer job in the city, had pulled in the driveway. He hurried from his black Escalade, juggled his briefcase and umbrella when he took to the right side of the mower, and helped me push the mower. I hollered over the sound of rain and told him what had happened. He said nothing, stopped to adjust the umbrella that did little to keep dry his dark gray Brook’s Brothers suit, and returned to pushing the mower closer to the garage. He didn’t complain or scold me for driving recklessly and running over Dave’s ball glove, but I was certain the rain kept him quiet from giving me a good lecturing on lawnmower safety and care.
When we rounded the back of the garage, a flash of bright white light and tremendous heat engulfed me. Then things got really weird.