A dark and stormy day in Lakefield.
There were storms predicted for that day and we cottagers know it is wise to take those
things seriously. This area is on the edge of some sort of weather line and whatever we
get tends towards the extreme. But our plan for the day was Lakefield for re-supply, and
there was this antique and horticultural show Ann wanted to see, so the day found us
focused and undeterred. And stupid.
I vaguely recall Ann mentioning something about a storm; I recall acknowledging that.
I’d seen it in the papers. My only good explanation for what we did about it is that
someone must have sneaked into the cabin and extracted our brains while we slept; at
least the part of our brains where our highly developed storm sense resided.
Leaving the cottage and boathouse wide open, we crossed under sunny skies. Murray
and Ann-Marie were swimming off the marina beach as we pulled up. There were jokes
about what a lovely day, – yes it’s just the kind of day that makes you want to get into a
boiling hot car and drive to town.
We looked up at the sky as we crossed. Clouding up, isn’t it? Yep, sure is.
We tied up the boat and hit the road. Sure looks like something’s coming. Maybe we
should shorten our agenda and try to get back sooner?
Ann’s sullen reply, “Don’t get that one. We have no idea when or if a storm’s going to
come. It could be soon, it could be later.” I know better than to argue when an antique
show is involved.
The sky was now a hazy, flat, yellow-white. We drove on.
Out on the highway the full spread of sky held ominous signs. We drove on.
In the little town of Lakefield there was urgency in the air. I dropped Ann off at the
antiques show and headed for the lumberyard. (Each to his own). The sun was bright
and the air was smothering. Off away to the North the warm milky sky was turning
shades of blue and green.
As I went about my errands the sky steadily thickened and lightning fluttered on the
other side of the clouds. I sat in a café and watched the front move in. People were
scurrying with true purpose now. A pair of boys on bikes holding fishing poles aloft. I
hoped they were on the way home. A woman throwing plastic bags full of stuff into the
back seat of her van, turns her head skyward. Shouts from up and down the street.
Curtains bloom in hastily slammed windows. Audible thunder and a quickening breeze.
Time to go.
Time to run and close the boathouse windows. Time to drop the storm flaps in the
kitchen and turn off all the lights and sit in the dark and wait out the storm.
Time to get Annie at the antiques show.
Gas stop. Standing at the pump as the rain begins to spatter I get this eerie feeling I’m
holding a bomb in my hand. Lightning forks everywhere now. As fast as I can fill I run to
the cashier. He’s on the phone saying, “...yes, one more customer here and then I’m
shutting down. I know, I know, I gotta go”. He ran my card and hit the switch. Everything
went dark and I raced the rain back to the car. The sky unloaded just as I slammed the
You know the kind of rain that defeats your windshield wipers? Well, I could see just
about well enough to creep the 100 or so yards to our meeting place, which was about
twenty feet from the door. Crossing that space in record time, less than five seconds I’d
say, Ann is soaked to the skin, completely drenched on one entire side of her body. Her
hair is plastered to the side of her face, and water streams off her nose and chin. Her
other side is merely damp. This was a highly directional rain.
We went about the rest of our errands handicapped by power outages that shut down
some stores, and made others too dark for shopping, with images of our rain-ravaged
cabin in our heads.
How was it possible that we didn’t turn around when we could have, and gone back to
close the windows? What were we thinking? Why, at every obvious and certain sign did
we continue on instead?
Is the lure of an antiques show for Ann, or a lumber yard for me such a powerful thing
that our good sense could be so completely overridden? Was each of us waiting for the
other to speak? Was each of us waiting for the other to spoil the outing by going back?
Not that it would have been spoiled, only delayed a little.
Because neither of us was willing to speak the obvious. The right thoughts were there.
We were thinking them. They were hanging above our heads in large, clearly lettered
thought balloons. The thought balloons trailed above and behind the car, leaning out for
the curves as we tooled down the road straight into the storm. Why didn’t we read
I don’t know, I’m still partial to the nighttime brain surgery theory.
On the road back we shared our visions. Smashed oil lamps and the kitchen swimming
in kerosene. Rugs squishing underfoot. Soaking wet pillows, duvets and mattresses,
every piece of clothing drenched, the thought of improvised sleeping arrangements, all
of the toilet paper wet, all of the books, maps, magazines. My computer drowned. A pile
of watercolour paintings in a puddle spreading rainbows over the boathouse floor. Guest
beds drenched. Dry goods in the kitchen ruined. A whole roll of paper towel drooping
limp and useless. Walls sopping from rain...
As we drove on back, happy hopeful thoughts that maybe the storm could have missed
us, –– heck, sometimes they get Lakefield and miss us altogether –– these thoughts fell
to the evidence of broken branches and streaming roads.
Things were calm at the marina when we arrived. The tracks of recent freshets ran
down the parking lot towards Murray’s garden. The nose of the boat was low, full of
water and everywhere all was wet. We crossed, giggling.
Idiots do giggle, you know, but there is also a thing called dumb luck.
No lanterns were shattered on the floor, no artwork ruined by rain, the pillows weren’t
even damp. Something had placed its giant invisible hand between our cabin and the
rain and said, “Here you will not go”. There is no other explanation. Yes, it was wet in
there. The door had blown wide open and twigs and debris showed us the path the wind
had taken as it raced about the cabin, snatching at rugs and tossing lamps about; clear
through the cabin to the porch on the other side, where soggy rockers greeted us with
dignified nods. Things had been moved and rain was running everywhere. The role of
paper towel was indeed hanging limp and useless on its spindle. But that was all. The
open bedroom window casement had protected the bedding from even getting damp. All
the food was fine; the rugs were littered but reasonably dry.
It was the same story in the boathouse. The rain had come through the screens in a
misty spray and all the inside was soaked. But I had put away the paintings and they
were safe. The cots were indeed temporarily useless, but so what, they’ll dry before the
next wave of guests invade.
Why so lucky?
Perhaps it was the brain surgeon feeling sorry for us, coming back to shield us from our
folly. Perhaps he just wanted us to learn a lesson, not to be too arrogant and self-
confident. All our smug talk about how we could sense a storm coming before it even
showed up; all our storm-smart and cottage-wise conceit. We’ll never know but we’ll
always be grateful for easy lessons, ‘cause for all that could have happened, all we got
was clean. As we mopped and wiped, my amazed and grateful thought was, we clean
got away with it.
It’s been a great summer.
Paul Grissom, Rebel’s Isle. I used to be an ad guy, a “big agency” Creative Director who dropped out in the early eighties to work freelance for whoever wanted me, which included the big multinational agencies, plus a charming bunch of smaller local clients. You’ve probably seen my work, but enough about that. It was a rewarding career and a pretty good life, but if I’d known retirement was this much fun I’d have quit the rat race a lot sooner! Now I spend my time playing golf, gardening, making music with my friends in Port Hope (Come hear us at the Ganny and other open mic nights in the area) and enjoying time on Rebel’s Isle. And writing my own stuff with no deadlines, no clients to piss off or please; no worries except for that nagging little critic who lives in my head and won’t shut up. Hope you like the