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Dark Clouds on the Horizon

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Last night I went to the AMC Studio 30 on Dunvale to watch Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I enjoyed The Order of the Phoenix so much that I’d thought I go see this one as I was curious whether the continuing saga with Voldemort would play out as well as I had envisioned from reading the book.

After the last preview played, the lights started to dim for the feature presentation. Then, suddenly, the theater went dark. There was a hushed silence, and after a few moments, the cavernous space took on an eerie green glow from the emergency exit lights. “I wonder if this is part of the movie,” someone blurted out.

The guy sitting behind me replied, “Yeah, they’ve put us in some dark room at Hogwarts to make the movie seem more real.”

Another few minutes went by. “There isn’t any light on in the projection room,” someone shouted.

We collectively turned our heads toward the projection room. Sure enough, no light—no movement. It was then that some of us began to realize that maybe something had happened. A few of the patrons left the theater to let the management know that the movie had stopped playing.

They returned a few minutes later with a couple of theater personnel. “Sorry, folks. Didn’t realize you people were still in the dark.” The overhead lights came on. “There’s been a lightning strike close by, and it’s knocked the power out to the building. We don’t know when we’re going to get it back, but the fire department wants everyone to evacuate the building. You’ll receive a re-admit pass on your way out so that you can come back some other night.”

The guy behind me stood up and said, “Imagine that. A lightning strike knocks out the showing of Harry Potter. How’s that for a little wizardry?”

After I got my re-admit pass, I decided to head to the House of Pies for a cup of coffee and a slice of egg custard pie. There was considerable lightning and thunder going on, but only a slight sprinkle of rain was falling. That all changed quickly when about halfway to the restaurant, I drove into a torrent of water falling from the sky. Considering that we have been under severe drought conditions for the last month and a half, this rainfall was a welcomed sight.

I pulled off into a parking lot and found a spot with a clear view of the churning, black clouds and marveled at the light show that was being put on. The massive streaks ripped from the sky to the ground with thunderous booms that followed. One was so close and so loud that it set off the car alarms. For me, thunderstorms have always had an ominous, mysterious quality about them. Ever since I was a small child growing up in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, I felt a sense of urgency to beat it on home whenever the dark clouds began to appear over the mountains that separated us from New York.

When I was at a Boys’ Club summer camp in Richmond, Massachusetts, a thunderstorm coming off the pond sometimes would have us young campers huddling in the middle of the cabin. One night when we were watching a movie during a storm, a lightning bolt struck a pine tree close by. It splintered the tree in half. We noticed that several pieces of the splintered wood were steaming. Without thinking I picked up a piece to look at it more closely, not realizing that doing so was akin to putting my hand on a hot iron. I spent the rest of that week with my hand in a bandage that had to be changed every day.

I watch the last of the grayish white wisps of the clouds from the storm scuttle on by, the rain slowing to a slight drizzle. I turn the car on and continue on to the House of Pies. A few of my friends scoff at me for taking such an interest in Harry Potter. But then many of the things they say about J. K. Rowling’s work—it’s not literature; it’s pure pap that only a kid could appreciate; there isn’t anything original about her work—sound vaguely familiar to much of the criticism that was levied against Stephen King when his first books started to appear.

But as in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, I find the same characteristic in Harry Potter that I have found from reading Apollonius of Rhodes' Jason and the Argonauts, Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and that is how to remain focused on completing our quest when faced with insurmountable forces that challenge us to either rise up and prevail, or else succumb to oblivion. In The Deathly Hallows, Potter has his final confrontation with Lord Voldemort in a classic good versus evil showdown: “It’s just you and me,” Harry says to Voldemort. “Neither can live while the other survives.”

As I sit down to the counter at The Pie House, I think about the events that have transpired in our lives during the last couple of years. With the deep recession that has resulted in the loss of so many jobs, the uncertainty of the housing market, and the widening conflict in Afghanistan, it seems as if we are challenged by forces so little understood but every bit as menacing as the servants of the Dark Lord Voldemort.

My server tonight is a young lady I haven’t seen before. She places a cup of coffee and a slice of egg custard pie before me. “Anything else I can get you, hon?”

I look up at her. She’s got a smile as wide as the pie plate. “I’m all set, thanks.”

The hot steam wafts from my coffee. I stare into the cup. Something there is about rumbling clouds appearing on the horizon, the sudden downdraft of a cold wind that portends a coming storm. Considering the ongoing bickering over the “stimulus bill” that Congress passed, the recent debate on developing a national health care plan that won’t bankrupt us into oblivion, and the need for additional troops to vanquish the Taliban, one can’t help wondering if this storm of events will pass, or if it will wreck us for sure. Let us hope, then, that the wand President Obama wields against the problems our country is faced with is truly powerful and magical, and not just some ordinary stick.

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About S L Cunningham

S L Cunningham is a freelance writer and has poems and feature articles published in several small press magazines and newspapers. His column, "Unburned Pieces of the Mind" has been featured in the Village Soup Citizen. A former resident of Belfast, Maine, he now lives in Houston.
  • I don’t know. I think Harry et. al. has it easy compared to us.

  • Consider the power you possess in your own mind – a power far greater than you realize. Two weeks ago, the bus from Jerusalem to my village in Samaria got stuck on the road, and I had to stand there making sure that riders hitching a ride would not go out to the middle of the road and get killed by drivers going 110 kmh.

    With this in mind, last night, I rode home on the bus listening to the fellow next to me say he’d be at a party at 22:30, and not to worry about it. I told him, you shouldn’t have said that. Just two weeks ago, this bus broke down on the highway.

    Sure enough, the bus started to stink from benzene or gasoline, and pulled into ‘Ofra, stopping there. The driver said the bus had broken down and he was calling for another bus to come and pick us up.