Big Billy – Greased lightnin’


Did yis hear the thunder and lightning we had last week? And did half your family go mental over it? Because mine did.

Now, I admit, it was pretty bad. Some of them thunder crashes were probably the loudest Big BIllyones I ever heard, and ya could see the lightnin’ comin’ down in bolts. After the first couple of cracks, our daughter Rosie comes downstairs, flings open the curtains in the picture window and props herself up on the back of the chair to take it all in. She’s right into science and books and everything else, and she never gets scared of stuff like that because she can tell ya exactly how it happens.

BOOM! There was a big crack, and that’s when I could tell Minnie started to get nervous. She pretends like thunder and lightning don’t bother her, but I can always tell different. See, for some reason, whenever a storm really scares her, Minnie pretends everything’s fine and decides out of the blue to start bakin’ somethin’.

I think I’ll do up a thing of biscuits! she said, and started haulin’ out the pans and flour and stuff, and that’s when I knew we were in for a bad storm.

Is it OK to be in the window like that? I asked Rosie, from my chair, a good ten safe feet away.

Oh yeah, she said. Being near a window will only be harmful if we’re actually struck by lightning. It doesn’t increase the chances. And the odds of being struck by lightning are less than one in a million.

I could hear Minnie clankin’ the bowls and hummin’ somethin’ to herself. Even worse than thunder and lightning, she don’t like hearin’ anybody talk about thunder and lightenin’ while it’s goin’ on outside.

One in a million, eh? I said.

Yup, Rosie said, as a big bolt shot to the ground somewhere way over toward Sydney. Of course, even if you get struck by lightning, the odds of it killing you are even smaller, about one in 2.6 million.

Minnie musta heard that, because her clankin’ around and hummin’ got louder. Sounded like she was basically throwin’ stuff around the counter and she was pretty much singin’ out loud to herself. Sounded like the theme from Another World.

You sure know a lot about lightning, eh, kiddo? I says.

Of course, those numbers are in general, she said. In Canada, for some reason, the chances are a bit greater – every year 60-70 Canadians are struck by lightning and six to 12 of them will be killed by it.

That set Minnie off again. Just as another huge bang of thunder came, Minnie started beatin’ the livin’ supreme you-know-what out of her biscuit dough on the counter and for no reason broke out singin’ the old Rise and Follies song “Bungalow”.

If it’s hot and hazy (oh yeah) When things get a little crazy, I’ll tell ya where I’ll go. To the Bunga-bunga-low – the lounder the thunder got the louder she sang.

Rosie was just startin’ to explain to me how the process of evaporation and condensation makes the molecules collide in clouds and let off electrical charges, when the phone rang.

Now as much as Minnie pretends to have everything under control even when she’s peein’ her pants scared, that’s pretty much how hysterical her sister-in-law Joan gets the minute there’s a hint of thunder happenin’.

I swear to cripes, one time we had them over for supper and Minnie served her famous five alarm chili. Now that stuff’s delicious, but it’s so spicy, I don’t mind tellin’ ya it gives me gas somethin’ awful. So, tryin’ to be all polite in front of company, I just leaned to one side a little and tried to sneak out a toot without anybody noticin’. Only the damn thing made a noise against the seat of the chair. That’s when Joan – and this is a true story – screamed, jumped up from the table and ran over and braced herself in the living room doorway.

Shut off the lights! she yelled. Unplug everything! We’re all gonna die!

Ya can probably imagine how embarrassed she was when I answered her cry of – We’re all gonna die! – with the explanation that it was just a fart and everything was gonna be OK.

Anyways, Joan knows Minnie tries her best to ignore the fact that there’s bolts of fire shootin’ out of the sky, and that terrifies her, so any time thunder and lightnin’ starts up, they play this little game where Joan calls Minnie and tells her to get off the phone because it’s lightnin’ outside.

Sure enough, not ten minutes into the storm, the phone rings and it’s Joan. And even though Minnie’s out in the kitchen, we can hear Joan on the other end of the phone.

Hello? Minnie says.

Hang up! Joan says. It’s lightnin’ out!

G’way, is it? Minnie said, still pretendin’ everything was fine. I guess I never noticed because I’m makin’ a thing of biscuits.

Hang up! Shut the stove off and hang up! Joan yelled. I’m down the basement and I can still hear it! Hang up!

Eventually she did hang up, and went back to makin’ her biscuits and singin’.

After a while the storm let up a bit and I went to the kitchen to get myself some more tea.

Some storm, eh? I says to her.

By then the biscuits were coolin’ on the counter and she was makin’ molasses cookies somethin’ fierce, singin’ the Reba McEntire song “Fancy” at the top of her lungs.

Here’s your one chance, Fancy, don’t let me dow-own. Oh, is it stormin’? she says, even though ya could barely hear her yodelin’ over the thunder.

Yup, I says. Either that or ya fed me chili in my sleep.

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