The still grey sky hung above him.
“Storm’s coming,” he said.
Sitting there, alone on the deck, as he did every morning, Lex wondered if he should call his mother and tell her to check the forecast. She was doing okay since Dad died, but he had always been the one to pay attention to such things and god knows Mike paid scant attention to Mom’s welfare. He was too busy “being Mike,” as Dad had always said.
Mike was the successful one. He wore the tailored clothing and drove the BMW, drank the best wines, and made everyone laugh. When they were boys everyone knew Mike would grow up to be someone important, maybe even start his own company (which he did) or run for Governor (which he was considering). Mike read a lot of Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglar. He did Crossfit and drank those god-awful green drinks.
Lex took a long pull on the Marlboro Light and blew it out slowly. He knew he should quit. One day he would, but on his own terms, not because Mike or anyone else gave him grief. Dad had smoked for fifty years and was never sick a day in his life. Until one day he got up, said he had a headache, and dropped to the ground with a sickening thud. Mom wouldn’t subject him to an autopsy. She didn’t need to know what killed him. He was gone and that was that. “No point in putting him through all that,” she had said as if the man was still alive.
Mom would talk to his father as if the man was still alive. At first it bothered Lex, but then he realized she wasn’t losing her mind. He really was still there. The man drank scotch every night, just two glasses, ran through Marlboro Reds like buttered popcorn, and cursed Democrats and Republicans alike. He was a hard man, tough as hell; started working in the mines when he was fifteen. But he was as tender as a kitten with his family. Men like that don’t die. They make too big a mark in their small corner of the world to be swallowed up by something as trivial as death.
Lex knew he should get up and get dressed but he wanted another cigarette and some more coffee. As he lit another smoke, he thought some more about his father and his brother and what kind of men they were. There were times when Lex had been tempted see their version of manhood as better than his own, as if there was some kind of cosmic scorekeeper who kept track of such things. Maybe there was and he was screwed. Maybe not. But somewhere along the way, Lex realized that he couldn’t be his father or his brother and that he would never have washboard abs or be able to talk intelligently about investment strategies and bond yields, or drink Scotch for that matter. Lex was strictly a Bud Light kind of guy.
He had a good job and the money wasn’t bad. It paid the bills. And there was Jenny. She knew he was broken and still loved him for reasons he really couldn’t comprehend. Some day they would have a kid and he would love the little guy and probably screw him up some. Maybe they would have a girl and he could just stay out of the way and let her do the important stuff. He just hoped he was kind and reliable, wanted to live a simple life, and not get too caught up by all the distractions that were out there.
When the first blast of thunder cracked he sloshed lukewarm coffee on his jeans. Lex thought he should probably go inside but wanted to stay just a little longer. He liked to watch the beginning of a storm. There was a kind of terrible order to it. He liked to see the front come in over the horizon and the clouds swirling. He liked hearing the first few drops of rain fall, then more and more until the sound of it hitting the roof became a roar; waters rushing, washing away the dust and pollen. These were holy moments to Lex. So he stood there and let the wind and rain blow over him for a little longer until he heard Jenny behind him.
“It’s storming babe. Whatcha doin’?”
He crushed the last embers of the cigarette to his boot then dropped it into the trash.
“I dunno,” he said. “Just prayin’, I guess.”