Fire in the sky, blood on the sand

Sketch: Nicole Weatherall

al-martinez-sketch.jpgI was stretched out on a reclining chair looking at the sky from the wooden deck of our home. The sky was as blue as a baby's eyes, and what clouds that existed floated by in soiled clumps. While not the most dazzling of skies I have ever seen, at least it wasn't as dark and dangerous as the heavy blackness that obscured the birth of lightning last week on the Venice Beach.

It struck from the deep soul of tragedy's caprice, the booming base drums of a Doge's funeral, setting the night on fire and turning the group of people it struck into terrified refugees running from a war. One of them died, eight were injured. All felt as though they had looked into the heart of evil.

I have been possessed with that moment of fire and thunder since I heard it on the news. I couldn't eat that day and I couldn't sleep that night, re-creating the moment, the death strike and the dirge that God created behind that raven-black curtain, where punishment is born. I don't actually know if there is a god or why he's doing all this if there is one. Maybe he's still pissed over our playful attitude toward original sin

I can only imagine the terror of the group that endured the blast of power that surged into their midst, and the last unanswered questions of the dying 20-year-0ld boy, Nick Fagnano, about to begin a new life at USC, wondering as the old life ended, why this, why me, why here, why now? And by whom?

We were driving through Mexico one night years ago in a rented camper when a lightning storm later dubbed "the storm of the century" rolled through. We were on a flat plane of land north of Hermosillo when the storm began. Lightning formed a circle of fire over us, joining at both ends to create an electrical halo effect. Thunder roared into ear-splitting crescendos.

We were all terrified with the youngest daughter asking, "Are we going to die, daddy?" Probably," I said, trying to cheer them up. It didn't work. We screamed and cried through the flash and booming bass, and my wife shouting, "Turn back, turn back!" and me hollering back, "To what, to what?" It was all around us. There was no turning back.

We reached Hermosillo and were led to a camping place by the whole police department, fearful that we were all crazy. "We don't want no trouble," El Capitan kept saying. Neither did we. By morning the storm was gone but the memory returns, images of the dead boy on Venice a part of the sky, the clouds and the thunder that continues to beat funeral drums far, far away

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