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Listen to Your Mom. Don’t Talk On the Phone When It’s Lightning

Photo by Jonas Kaiser on Unsplash

There’s a weird history on the Pillow side of the family of males being struck by lightning. Not a direct hit necessarily, but close enough to make your tooth fillings ache. My dad once told me he’d gotten his tailfeathers singed opening the backdoor at our house one evening after cutting grass. He told me other stories, too, involving my grandfather and great grandfather which involved golf courses, ponds, and open fields of farmland.

Being next in line in the Pillow family lineage, my go at being zapped by Zeus was pre-determined.

You know how back in the day, when corded phones existed, your telephone would ring when it was lightning? Well, not ring. More like a false ring? And, you’d go to grab it and your mom would be like, “Don’t answer it! That’s lightning on the other end.”

Anyways, I was fifteen years old. Had fallen for a girl. And, we used to talk on the phone pretty much every night.

“You hang up.”

“No, you hang up.”

“Alright, I’m going to hang up . . . I couldn’t do it.”

And then we’d laugh…

That sort of thing.

Well, one time I really should have hung up the phone. A storm was a brewing outside. A nasty summer storm that came out of nowhere. I heard my mom yell from downstairs, “You better hang up the phone before you get struck by lightning.”

“Hanging up now,” I lied. Tee hee.

I’d heard her say it probably ten times that summer while I was in my bedroom on the phone with my girlfriend. Hadn’t been struck once. Pipe down. So, being a rebellious teenager with raging hormones, I ignored my mom. What’s the likelihood I get struck by lightning while on the phone, I thought. Pretty small, I reasoned. Pretty small. I am a teenager. I am INVINCIBLE!

Wrong.

About forty five seconds after my mom yelled from downstairs, a loud pop came through the receiver of the phone into my left ear. A split second later, I shot sideways off the bed like Evel Knievel rocketing over Snake River Canyon. I’m talking from one side of the bed to the next and knocked hard onto the floor.

I momentarily went deaf in my left ear. My teeth felt like I had the sinus infection from hell. And, I raised my head from the ground and thought, “What in the hell just happened?”

Here’s a reenactment of the scene as I came to:

via GIPHY

And, there my phone was. I picked it up. Dead as a doornail. No dial tone. No nothing.

I heard my mom run upstairs.

“What was that sound?” she said. “What was that sound?”

“I think I just got struck by lightning while on the phone,” I said.

“Are you okay?” my mom asked.

“I can’t hear out of my left ear,” I said. “But yeah, I think I’m okay. My teeth hurt.”

“I told you to get off that phone,” she said. “That was lightning on the other end.”

Until that day, I sort of didn’t believe my mom when she said you could get struck by lightning while on the phone. Not like struck struck. A tickle and nothing more. An urban legend, I surmised. ‘Tis no urban legend. You can get struck by lightning while talking on the phone. Maybe not so much nowadays since most phones are cordless. But, if you’re still nostalgic for the 1980’s and 1990’s and are rocking the corded phone at your homestead, listen to your mother. Ring, ring, mothertrucker. That’s lightning calling you toll-free on the other end.

By Jeffrey Pillow

Jeffrey Pillow is an American short story writer, memoirist, and poet. He is the author of The Lady Next Door. His writing has been published in Urge Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, 16 Blocks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, TheBody.com, New York Times, Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He grew up in the small town of Phenix, Virginia, population: 200, and now lives in Charlottesville with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Mozzarella Cheese. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he was a Rainey Scholar. This is his blog.

6 replies on “Listen to Your Mom. Don’t Talk On the Phone When It’s Lightning”

Always listen to your mother; she knows best! Believe it or not my rebellious self had to learn a lot from the School of Hard Knocks!

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