Close Encounter of the High Voltage Kind

Southwest Virginia in the early ‘80s

 

It was just beginning to sprinkle as we started up the trail. Thinking the rain would cool off our hike on that hot August day, we happily hiked on,

blissfully ignorant

of what lay ahead.

I was one of thirty some 17-year-olds spending a week at Lynchburg College competing for scholarships. After a busy day of classes, this hike at Sharp Top on the Blue Ridge Parkway was just the diversion we needed.

Our steep mile and a half hike did indeed cool off. The sprinkles turned to rain.

We quickened our pace when we heard distant lightning. Someone said something about a cabin at the top.

The true downpour started as we approached the cabin. We all crammed into the small stone building. No one was brave or foolish enough to go out to the overlook just beyond the cabin.

We were young. We didn’t worry.

Besides, we knew there was a shuttle that would take us back down the mountain. We’d hike the quarter mile to the shuttle stop as soon as the lightning let up.

It didn’t let up.

If anything, it increased.

And the last shuttle of the day would be there soon.

Half of the people in the cabin decided they would stay put where it was safe.

I was not one of those people.

A dozen or so of us rushed out through the deluge.

I couldn’t see a thing. I just followed the person ahead of me. Lightning crashed every couple of seconds all around. I got soaked to the bone.

After a couple of minutes that seemed like a couple of hours, we made it to the bus shelter. I plopped my waterlogged self down on the bench on the far side of the shelter, glad to be safe.

Then it hit me.

Technically, it hit the shelter and the electricity ran through those of us on that far side of the bus shelter.

It was lightning.

Oh, and deafening thunder.

It was literally a pain in the rear. Very painful, in fact.

When it happened, a girl seated on the other side started screaming hysterically. Once she calmed, she explained that she saw us all light up and thought we would die.

The only casualty that I know of was my digital watch, which started flying forward in time. We were sore and soaked and had a new respect for thunderstorms.

As for those stayed in the cabin, the college had to send out another bus. They didn’t return until later in the evening.

Whether we played it safe or braved the storm, we each came home with quite the story to tell.

This story has found it’s way into many children’s and youth lessons. It even into Wil Clarey, The Impossible Summer (as told to Wil by his grandpa). My lessons and my books tend to be filled with stories like these. They tend to grab attention and illustrate a number of points.

Do you have stories?

Let ‘em out!

Write them and share them. If possible, teach with them.

Don’t let them fade in your memory.

Oh yeah, and don’t go outside in thunderstorms!

Where’d That Come From

Ever wonder where stories come from?

Have you wondered where you can find new stories?

This question came to the forefront when I recently came up with a new novel idea from a very novel source. But first, here’s where some of my other stories have come from.

Reymons came from a high school writing assignment. Mrs. Fender told us to write a short fiction story. She suggested we write about something we like.

I liked driving my dad’s Datsun 280Z. My short story had me going out for a short drive in the little sports car, only to have an obsession come over me that caused me to drive as fast as possible into the mountains. There I followed a line of traffic into a subterranean passage where we were sheltered from a nuclear holocaust (this was during the Cold War).

Reymons revisits that post-apocalyptic world four hundred years later.

Bob Wiley watches me write Wil Clarey: Mystery at the Mill

Wil Clarey came from my experience as a 16-year-old who was transplanted from the San Francisco Peninsula to rural southwest Virginia. Many of the scenes were based on actual events in my life.

It’s first iteration was, frankly, boring. Then I married into a son on the autism spectrum. I had to think, what if I had been on the spectrum? I rewrote it with that in mind. I lowered Wil’s age to make it middle grade which suited the story better.

Daddy Mine was a bed-time story. I wanted a strong female character for my daughter to look up to. I started with the concept of an orphan 12-year-old girl in a mining town. From the first scene where the neighbor girls are teasing her, it basically wrote itself as I told it to my daughter.

Countdown, or Synchronized, or whatever I end up calling it was a deliberate effort at coming up with an adult level action novel. Some of the situations are drawn from work experience. Other than that, it is made from scratch. It is on hold simply because I found that I need to do some significant research that I don’t have time for right now.

Finally, my as yet unnamed new story. The source?

A dream.

In my dream, I remember feeling very nervous going into an inner-city middle school. I was an adult, there to teach or give a speech. That’s about all I remember of the dream. But I woke up thinking, “this’ll write!”

I made an effort to remember the dream and at lunch, I wrote the first chapter so I would remember the idea.

The main character is now called Evan. He is a paraplegic, having lost the use of his legs in a brutal mugging. That made him re-evaluate his life. Upon recovery, he completed a teaching certificate and finally landed this teaching job after the previous teacher quit mid-year. His unique teaching style ruffles feathers among his fellow teachers.

I can hardly wait to write that story!

I hope this inspires you to find your stories. Look in the unusual places.

Get them written!