Diary of a Power Outage
It starts with the dreaded flicker
Illustration by Brad Fitzpatrick
Hour One: The first flicker is a surprise. “Where’s ‘Cake Boss’” Granny snaps. I click the remote. Then the lights go off: power outage.
Between telephone poles, the lines sag with ice. Kinda pretty, actually. Maybe I’ll read an improving book. By candlelight!
Hour Two: Tee hee! Living like the Olden Days. Light the hurricane lamp, guv’nah! Fetch kindling for the blaze! Popcorn on the woodstove? I’ll just grab some butter — oh, right, the fridge is off. Keep the cool in, save the meat.
We’re in for the evening, dear family! Break out the board games.
Hour Three: Mum’s rebuilding the Jenga tower, singing “My Favorite Things.” Dad pops another Coors. Granny, bundled in quilts, rocks and rocks. The fire needs feeding — depleted porch stash means another dark, slushy trek to the woodpile.
I’m about Olden Dayed out. Think I’ll hit the sack. It’s 6:30.
Day Two: I flip light switches and turn taps by instinct, like a lab rat. I ask Granny to tell about the Great Outage of Aught Five, but she just glares from the slit between her quilts.
Mum went to Home Depot for a generator. The man laughed and twirled his mustache. “Come back in June.” So Dad borrowed The Beast from Uncle Joe. It roars like a 747, and it sports FUMES = MADNISS in drippy red paint, but it’s worth it when we plug in a lamp and play three hours of Jenga in the blessed electric glow.
Day Five: The Beast crapped out. The stench of bad meat, the pungent oil from the hurricane lamp, the fact that we haven’t showered in days, makes the kitchen smell like a Victorian slaughterhouse. Dad tosses rotten hamburg out the window to the coyotes circling the house.
“They smell death,” Granny says, cocking her .45.
Day Ten: The neighbor has gasoline. I can smell it. Where did he get it? Did he survive the Irving?
Dad and I stormed the walls three days ago, just after Granny disappeared, and barely made it out. He kept the pick-up truck gangs at bay with a welding torch while I grabbed Colgate and Cheez-Its. We threw a fork and a VHS of “Point Break” on the counter in exchange and ran.
Day Thirteen: Dad hasn’t spoken since the Coors ran out. Granny doesn’t say much from under those warm coyote skins, but the extra sets of eyes are disconcerting. She won’t join us for Evening Jenga.
Mum suspects this blatant heresy is why the gods won’t give us back the light. “Jenga,” she chants, dancing. “Jenga, Jenga.”
Day Twenty: I sharpen the cleaver. I’m going after the neighbor’s gasoline, having wrestled a coyote head away from Granny for a disguise. Once the Elantra is gassed up, I’ll flee to Planet Fitness, where the lights are on all night and water flows. Mum and Dad say Planet Fitness is a lie, that there is only the Jenga. But I’ll fix them. I’ll —
Oh, the lights are back on.