Riding Lightning at the End of the World I remember the day that Tempus Energy Co rolled its first trucks into Assumption, Illinois. We weren't their first stop and we weren't the last. Probably the drivers and the construction workers and the people in clashing million-dollar suits and cheap hard hats don't remember my town at all. Just another crossed off blimp on the map. But I remember. That was the day that Lizzie Volta and Gingersnap Kelly became teenage outlaws. I remember the town hall meeting that night. All 136 townsfolk and all 242 workers that'd be with us during construction. We had to have town hall out on the lawn-- wasn't enough room int he hall for the entire town as it were. Our mayor, a fat, balding little man with dreams bigger than his height and girth combined, stood up on the podium while us townsfolk sat in the lawn. Maybe it was my teenage spite, as mama likes to say, but all those construction workers standing around the field looks a lot like bodyguards. Or jailers. "Today marks a new era and new profit for our little town," he said, like we didn't all know the story. Tempus Energy Co. had found a way to convert raw lightning into safe, efficient and clean energy. Only problem was they needed a reliable source of natural lighting. The American midwest, especially during summer time was a perfect candidate. See, out here you gotta drive an hour to get to a major shopping center. Landscape's not much to look at, either. Just endless fields of soybeans and corn. But oh, the lightning. During the summer, those dark clouds roll in almost nightly and that lightning...oh the lightning. Clearest blues and purples you ever did see. And that lightning must not have been too impressed with our landscape, either, 'cause most of the time it never touched ground, not a once. Nope, the lightning just jumped from cloud to cloud, crossing the sky. With the right board, lightning rod, skill and luck, a kid could ride that lightning clear 'cross state lines. And that's just what me and Gingersnap Kelly and the 11 other lightning rider rascals of Assumption did. We were the lightning riders. And on that warm April night, we got officially told we couldn't ride lightning. Too dangerous now that all the expensive harvesting equipment was gonna be in the sky. "But can't we have a non harvest day? Even just once a month for us?" I asked, bold as brass on that ton hall lawn. The chief suit looked at me sternly, the way my pa does when I skip out of chores. "Do you know how much energy can be harvested in a single hour? Do you know how many homes, cars and businesses it can power? Those people, good hard-working people like your town, are depending on us to keep their lives running smoothly. Too loose even an hour a month could be detrimental to a family's livelihood." It was the longest 'no' I'd ever heard. I scowled and sat down, looking very at my girl, Gingersnap Kelly. She didn't say nothing, but she looked solemn as a sinner in confessional. 'Course us kids weren't happy. And a week later, we all heard that Billy Joe Denver got arrested for lightning riding through a construction zone. He got find 5,000 dollars. Mama took away my board after that. "Now look here, Lizzie," Mama told me, "These city folks, they do things differently. They'll fine and sue without a second thought. It's not gonna be like those time when the Sheriff took you for a good scolding and dropped you safe and sound home." "Then why we letting them in here in the first place?" I asked. "Because lightning riding doesn't pay the bills and every year our cut from the fields gets a little bit smaller." Mama never looked so weary to me at that moment. I could've nicked the board for a night and put it pack without Mama or Pa none the wiser. But remembering Mama's face stopped me more than what happened to poor Billy Joe Denver. I didn't take back by board, but Gingersnap and I took her truck out to our favorite cornfield. When the summer swung in full, it always had the best view of the lightning. We snuggled in silence on the bed of the truck, looking up at the sky, stars marred by flashing lights and human yells of construction happening over our heads. Finally, Gingersnap spoke. "You're fixing for something dramatic, ain't you, Lizzie?" I shook my head. "Nope. I made a promise to my Mama I wouldn't go taking my board back." "Then you're fixing to say something dramatic. You always go real quiet when you're fixing for something dramatic. It's the only time you go real quiet." I nodded. No one knows me better than my Gingersnap Kelly. "Ginge," I said. "Will you kiss me?" She craned her neck and looked at me directly. "'Course. What's the occasion?" "The end of the world. You should kiss me at the end of the world." Gingersnap smiled, leaned in and kissed me lightly on the cheek. "Lizzie, I got the best of all end of the world kisses saved just for you," she told me, "But you're just gonna have to wait, 'cause this ain't it." I wasn't so sure. Didn't take Tempus Energy Co. very long to get their lightning-catching machines up and going. Like I said, we weren't their first town. They even got the start of a nice storage place going. We weren't big enough for a refinery--the lightning would be shipped out for that. For the most part, everything was done just in time for the summer storms. The construction workers and the suits in their hats left. A few workers stayed behind, training some of us townsfolk to work the factory. Like Mama said, riding lightning didn't pay the bills, but catching it surely did. Gingersnap and I spent a lot of time parking her truck in the cornfield. And I kept my promise to my Mama. But oh it was hard. And every time I saw the lightning dance across the sky, every time that dance was caught like a school of fish swimming straight into a net, I felt lightning strike in my chest. Again and again and again. Come September, I didn't know how much longer I could stand it. Gingersnap saw it, too. She was calm as could be, but that's Ginge for you. I think she only got into lightning riding on account of being my girlfriend. She might have lost the lightning, but she still had me. Sometimes I don't know if I deserved a girl like that. We were halfway through September when the biggest storm of the season hit. Next morning, two of the lightning catcher towers were down and the folk were scrambling to fix 'em up for the next night. We all knew it wouldn't come in time. They'd loose that night's lightning. I told Gingersnap we had to watch the show for sure that night. Had to watch the free lightning. She smiled and nodded. When we pulled up to the cornfield, Gingersnap picked up a pile of blankets from the bed of the trunk. It was too hot for blankets. Gingersnap knew that. She unwrapped the blanket and there, nestled and shining like the Holy Grail itself was a board and a lightning rod. "I made it," Gingersnap said. She blushed shyly. "Just in case." 'Course I kissed her right then and there. Oh my sweet Gingersnap. Then I knew I didn't deserve a girl like you. I fixed the rod on the board and strapped myself in. Gingersnap strapped herself to my back. The board fit two perfectly. We were ready, we were powered and when that first lightning struck across the sky, we were jumping up, up, up, into the clouds, the lightning under our feet. I threw my arms an my head back and screamed victory to the sky. Gingersnap laughed with me, holding me close as we danced, lightning-rider style. It was a rough storm. One of the roughest I'd ridden. Twice we almost feel out of the clouds completely, but tonight, my first lightning ride in so many months, I didn't care a lick. Least, not until we saw the tower, the fixed tower turned on. Then came the sounds of sirens. And then came the lightning, scrambled by the nets, hitting us. The board shorted and died. And we fell. "Gingersnap, It's the end of the world." I don't know how I got the words out. I don't know how she heard me. But she nodded. And we kissed at the end of the world.