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26 the minnesota review Rawdon Tomlinson Lightning-Struck Boy Some white folks were living in our negro quarters, and the old man and boy were chopping cotton— not in our field, on another man's place, and the lightning struck and killed the boy, shot straight down his leg into the ground and tore off his shoe. The old man borrowed a car and brought him back. The sky was violet with white thunderheads like rapids boiling, but nothing moved: no bird; no leaf— like waiting for a pin to drop. Rigor Mortis had set in, and the old man, who was short, was bearing upright the six foot boy tightly wrapped in a sheet white as chalk against the black and blue and straight as a string. His sister came running, crying and telling it same as a nest-robbed sparrow, her quick undampered notes sucked empty by that hot vacuum. We laid out the corpse on a cot, I furnished everything nice and clean, and we bathed the dirt from it: it looked like he'd been wearing gloves, a mask and socks of earth; around his head there was a perfect band of moonlight where his hat had fit; we washed until all of him was pale as watered milk, bathing, paying attention, like prayer— and then we had one of those tornadoes, the air swelling like fever, flushing cold to hot with heat lightning, rain splinters, hail—the freight roaring, jumping the tracks. Down in the storm cave I could hardly think about that poor boy Tomlinson 27 up there alone, fixed as a vase with the dull glow reflecting from linoleum, and that hail drumming the tin roof— hitting him again. Next day we buried him in a plain, white pine box, in a cheap, black cotton suit paid for by the county, without shoes. The sister said, "Doesn't he look nice? He always wanted to dress right." I bought a three dollar bunch of flowers (I knew there'd be none), and I took the family in the Chrysler. The county buried him in a pauper's field. Granite monuments and black-green flames of cedars marked where the others lay, but they shared the silence of plains, that distance which plays tricks on the eyes— the horizon wavering with heat, indistinguishable from sky. ...


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