Hail Fell Earlier

This evening

Hail fell earlier and unexpectedly, the small, tight drops pinging like a cellphone alert, like a nap had come to an end and a pre-selected digital signal was looping, looping in a way that the brain, still at best halfway out of that nap, could not quite process. On a walk afterward, not even a mile, the hail just a stain on concrete: an unusual quiet, as if more people than normal for the hour, not long after dark, had elected to stay home. The sense of decreased population was not confirmed but at least acknoledged at the burrito shop, where the three-person crew huddled near the counter, the tone of their chat suggesting they were deep into a conversation, that not only was no one else here presently, but that no one had been for some time. On the walk back: very few cars passed, and the few that did seemed to register that fresh rain following so many weeks (months?) of drought made for unsafe streets. Stop signs, newly reflective thanks to the brief shower, accepted the careful pause made by each vehicle, all electric, all emitting at most a low level hum. The hail had provided a moment to marvel; the afterward, a time for communal caution. Back home: the rush of the dishwasher, the creak of a house settling in for the evening, the TV making that crackling, torque-like noise as it cooled once turned off. No dialog from pedestrians outside, and the self-imposed moratorium on cars largely still in effect. When an engine is heard many homes away, it is less a disturbance than an echo that charts just how empty, how vast, the area is — the exception that lends scale to the rule. There is a major avenue a couple blocks away, lined with businesses. In another direction there is a rapid thoroughfare, its lights timed for maximum traffic flow. And yet the neighborhood is a hush. Even the gearheads have stuck to their garages tonight, rather than risk their beloved machines on the still slick ashalt.

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