The Lightning Seller Visits Greenvale
This week, we’re taking a moment to consider the wonder of A.C. Wise’s electric reflection on memory, loss, and hope. ~ Julian and Fran, November 20, 2022.
The Lightning Seller Visits Greenvale
By A. C. Wise
David sat at the window, resting his chin on his arm—the one not in a cast. Outside, summer rushed past. He’d missed so many things already and could practically feel the rest of them slipping through his fingers—breaking in new shoes and being the first to jump into the creek and hitting one over the fence for a home run.
The Fourth of July carnival was already almost here, with rides and games and hot dogs and fireworks. Sure, he could enjoy all of those things with a cast, but it wouldn’t be the same. Summer was out there, close enough to taste—like bitter dandelions and sweet, sun-ripened strawberries—and it was all happening without him.
The Morse code tick-tick-tick of baseball cards jammed between bicycle spokes shouted the promise of adventure down the street. David raised his head. His little brother, Charlie, flew through patches of sun and shadow, barely slowing. He glanced up just long enough to grin, showing the gap between his teeth. Behind him, Rick Pearsons from the house on the corner jammed on his brakes and hollered upward.
“Davey! It’s the Lightning Seller! Come down quick or you’ll miss it!” The words tumbled out breathlessly, every sentence punctuated with excitement, and why shouldn’t they be? The Lightning Seller, here in Greenvale!
David shot up so fast, he almost banged his head on the raised window. He’d heard the stories about the man selling jars of lightning from a wagon he dragged from town to town. Everyone had. But this was the first time he’d heard of the man coming to Greenvale. Could it really be? The Lightning Seller? Here?
“Can’t you feel it?” Rick called up, as though David had asked the questions aloud. “What are you waiting for?”
Rick was already gone, a rocket blazing across summer’s glory with its scents of freshly mown grass and bubble gum baking on the sidewalks.
David sniffed the air. He could smell it. He could feel it, too, the ozone-crackle of blue-tinted light calling out to him and making the tiny hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. And not just lightning, but captured storms of all kinds, each one unique. If you had one of those in your hands, boy, just think what you could do.
In fact, David had spent a good deal of time doing just that. For instance, he could buy a snowstorm and save it up for a math test, then bam! Instant snow day instead. Or he could unleash a great booming thunderstorm during the hottest week of August when everyone was melting on their porch swings and the old folks in town despaired over their gardens. He could even buy a storm and save it up for some distant future, knowing all the while he could let it out anytime he chose. How many people could say that?
Well, just about everybody in Greenvale except him if he didn’t hurry. He skidded into the hall, ready to thunder down the stairs, his own boy-shaped storm, when a thought struck him. All of his allowance had already gone to buying the latest issues of Skip Jones: Sky Pilot and Mystery City, plus a pack of baseball cards, and lime-lemon fizz from the counter at the pharmacy. Normally, he was rolling in extra money in the summer, but with his busted arm he couldn’t mow neighbors’ lawns or climb onto their roofs to clean out their gutters. Sure, he had a few grubby bills stashed away in his sock drawer for emergencies, like a new picture opening at the Lyric or the carnival coming to town, but would that be enough? How much did a jar of lightning cost, anyhow?
David bit his lip. He glanced down the hall. Charlie kept his allowance saved up almost all year—that included birthday and holiday money, too—so he could buy something really special once summer rolled around. Last year it was a new fishing rod, and this year Charlie had his eye on a radio-controlled Red Devil Flyer with “real looping action.” Next week, Dad would take Charlie into town to make his purchase, but right now all that money was still in Charlie’s piggy bank. Just waiting.
Would he notice if David took just a little? Just enough to make sure he could buy his very own once-in-a-lifetime lightning jar? Surely by now Charlie had more than enough saved for the Red Devil Flyer. He could spare some for his big brother—the big brother he hadn’t even bothered to tell about the Lightning Seller coming to town. When David really thought about it, Charlie owed him for being rotten that way and, besides, when he got his allowance next week, David would slip the whole thing into Charlie’s piggy bank and he’d never know the difference.
David tiptoed into Charlie’s room. He imagined he was in Mystery City, then changed his mind and hummed a little bit of the Super Spy theme song instead. He was extra careful to put the piggy bank back exactly where he found it, and he even remembered to wipe his fingerprints clean with the hem of his shirt.
The heist took longer than expected, with the cast slowing him down, but finally he shoved the stolen bills into his pocket and then he was down the stairs and out the door. The getaway vehicle was a problem, though. He could ride his bike just fine with one hand once he got going, but getting started was the tricky bit. If he went on foot, he’d be too late.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Sunday Morning Transport to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.