A brilliant light arced across coral sky and circular sun and then coral sky again before it dipped into the ocean far off in the Gulf. The afternoon sky bisected by a celestial contrail cutting toward the horizon. The blaze went unseen by the oblivious who continued their sun-tanning and swimming and fishing.
The rip through the sky-- like a tailor with garment shears cutting pastel polyester-- was visible from where Edgar Plimpton stood with his bicycle. Some twenty miles away from the coast, he stood on a highway overpass with cars and campers beneath him traveling south on the interstate headed for Memorial Day on the Keys. He witnessed the burning trajectory through the chain-link fence atop the bridge and he gazed at the distant sky even after the falling lantern had extinguished itself.
Edgar broke his stare only when a rusted pickup truck full of wooden cages with chickens rode so close as to graze his shoulder before its engine revved and it pulled sharply left and plowed into the concrete median along the overpass bridge. The birds squawked in a plume of floating white feathers and the engine groaned then seized under a crumpled hood.
Cars and trucks began to swerve on the highway under the bridge as if serpentine millipedes running ramshot from an open nest. Winding and careening off the interstate barriers, the unlucky ones veering into oncoming traffic. A Ford pulling a boat trailer flipped into the median like an alligator rolling in sawgrass. A motorcycle lost control sideways until the rubber regained traction and pitched its rider into the side of a delivery truck that read Singh Ha’s Spicy Noodles.
Edgar trembled atop the overpass as unseen vehicles struck the concrete abutments underneath him and he jumped onto his bicycle and pedaled down the incline to get off the bridge. His bike pulled as if a flux from a giant magnet had captured his frame, his wheels and his seat post. His dome-shaped bell became a clanging tin metronome just before he was forced directly over the handlebars onto the pavement of the bridge.
He rolled onto his back and the sky above was pink and blue and cloudless. The clatter of vehicles being tossed as if toys in a child’s playroom had ceased. Only engine hiss, still steaming on the roadway below. Edgar’s face red and abraded and checkered shirt torn, he stood up on a swollen ankle, twisted like his bicycle, and he limped past the chicken truck to get off the bridge.
Just off the overpass bridge was a dingy, whitewashed chapel with a sign ‘Her Immaculate Conception – All Welcome’. Several old cars and an aged school bus with curtains in the windows were parked in front and Edgar hobbled across the gravel lot on his bad leg and entered through a heavy chapel door. Eyes adjusted to solemn dimness. The front pews scattered with a dark-haired family and on the altar was a swaddled baby in the hands of a preacher who canted a Spanish prayer. Edgar stood and watched from the vestibule of the chapel. A radiant Latino couple was on the altar with the preacher and the baby. A woman with hair in a black ponytail in the middle pew patted an infant who smiled at Edgar, marveling eyes with chin over his mother’s shoulder. A grandfather snapped a photo just as the preacher put down the Bible and lifted the newborn above his head toward the vaulted rectory.
A man in a brown holy robe passed in silence directly in front of Edgar and he smelled of mold and dust like an apparition from an arid desert. “I know your troubles, son,” he stopped and said.
“Haven’t you heard? There’s a catastrophe. A light from the sky. There's people dying on the highway.”
“Be calm. Tomorrow will be a better day.” The man in the robe had no shoes on feet dirty and dry. The baptism for the newborn, a halo of clean incandescence from stained glass around him. The filth of his gaunt face and thin beard showed through his silhouette. “Be calm.”
“I twisted my foot. My ankle. I can’t walk back to help them.”
The man looked down. “I see no injured ankle, son.”
Edgar saw that his ankle was slender and he hopped as if the foyer tiles were hot and it did not hurt. “But, I did have…”
“You have everything you need in this world. Today and tomorrow and the next day are already part of you. In your hands, your feet, your eyes and your mind.”
Edgar turned and ran out of the church into the sunbreak and across the parking lot to the road out front. He squinted under hands cupped like a visor and saw the overpass. A clear bridge with a shimmering haze like water on the roadbed. There was no truck. No chickens. An automobile drove over the bridge toward him, and another crossed it moving away from him. Edgar sat down in the cinders at the edge of the lot in front of the church and removed his shoes and socks and studied his feet for a long while as vehicles drove past him kicking up dust.