April 14

1986 — World’s Heaviest Hailstones, Bangladesh

 

“Be right there!”

You were resigned to spending time alone this evening.  With severe storms in the forecast, it seemed reasonable that people would stay at home.  But there’s knocking at the door.  Familiar, but insistent — like the knock of a friend in trouble.

Probably Janet.  She was always locking herself out of her apartment or having car trouble.

You’re almost at the door when you hear someone walking on the roof, two floors above.  Not walking, exactly.  Stomping.

Then it’s more than one person.  A crowd marching, dancing.  Leaning over and bashing at shingles with hammers.

Sledgehammers.

With a crash, something breaks through and thumps on the floor of an upstairs bedroom.   The object sounds as heavy as a person.  Another person follows, then another.

Was your home being invaded?  Was the roof caving in?  You wonder the safest place to stand.  Doorways, they used to say, and the front door is closest.

More hammering, followed by a muffled rhythmic thump.  A chunk of ice the size of a bowling ball rolls down your carpeted stairwell.

You open the front door, and the situation outside is worse:  a storm of gigantic hailstones plummet from the sky, smashing into trees, cars, the roofs of houses.  You’ve heard of golf-ball-sized hail, the largest ones shaped like heavy grapefruits in that Bangladesh episode that killed almost a hundred people.  These are much worse.

And on your porch — a shattered wine bottle, which Janet was bringing by to thank you for all the favors you’ve done her over the years.  Lying next to the broken glass is Janet herself, also broken, her skull shattered by a pumpkin-sized sphere of spiked ice.

The sky grows thicker, and the hailstones shift into boulders.  It’s only a matter of time before one of them crushes you.

You live on the west coast.  The forecast predicted the storm would follow a wide, steady path across the entire country.

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