You’ve heard about bolts from heaven. This was a lug nut. It pierced the windshield of my parents’ Nissan Pathfinder and slammed into the passenger seat where my mother had been sitting a short time before. Dad pulled over to the side of the road and looked back — there’d been no overpass. The only other vehicle on his side of the freeway was a Winnebago a quarter-mile ahead.
The guy at the shop said sure, that could’ve spun off the wheel of an RV. Just bad luck that it happened to come down right where you were. No — I said when I heard about it — it’s good luck, excellent luck! If Mom had still been sitting there, she could’ve been killed.
This is the kind of logic by which a sailor who loses his leg to a shark gets nicknamed Lucky Pete. It might mark me as an optimist, were it not for the fact that my dour realist side tends to get the last word: Luck had nothing to do with it. There’s no way Mom could’ve been there, since the purpose of the drive had been to deliver her to a conference, which Dad had already done when the incident occurred. And in any case the whole notion of luck represents an absurd attempt to project consistent, self-centered narratives onto chaotic, impersonal events. Unless, of course, you believe some kind of divine conductor is running the show, in which case the language of luck would be even more inappropriate, and you’d better get right with Jesus/Allah/whoever right now if you don’t want to be S.O.L. come Judgement Day.
That happened several years ago. The lug nut from heaven may have missed my mom by a mile — several miles, in fact — but as a fervent environmentalist her faith in the apocalypse remains unshaken. Just last night, in fact, we were talking about the old manual typewriter I keep under my writing table Just In Case. Mom said she thought that was an excellent idea. “At least when the world goes plunk,” she said, “we’ll be able to keep writing!”
“Wait. What? When the world goes plunk? Are you telling us that the sound the apocalyse makes is PLUNK?” My brother and I cracked up. “Yeah, you know — plunk!”
O.K., maybe it was more of a descriptive thing than straight onomatopoeia, but I like it either way. There’s such finality in it. It’s a quarter hitting the wall, dice hitting the table, a poker hand being laid down. It’s the sound of the clock running out on the game, or the numbers sliding into place on an old, pre-digital scoreboard at the ball park. It’s the sound of something small and ordinary landing in a totally unexpected place.
And when the world does finally go plunk, that machine-gun sound you’ll hear next, punctuated by bell-like dings? That’s my mom, continuing to type.
Don’t forget to check out qarrtsiluni’s Journaling the Apocalypse issue, now in its last ten days of publication. We won’t be posting anything tomorrow or Thursday, so this might be a good time to catch up.