The young man enters the room from the door opposite and looks upward furtively and then back towards me.
“I’m glad there’s a ceiling,” he says, his face visibly relaxing as he settles into the armchair opposite mine, “I’m not good with sky.”
I can understand and empathise. I am meeting with him to discuss this loose organisation of lightning strike survivors that have been brewing up an awareness blitz for my article, and I immediately seek to put him at his ease.
“Don’t worry,” I say, “this’ll be over in a flash. And there’s no charge.”
He seems to tense up a bit. I thought perhaps assuring him that the interview wouldn’t take long would be a safe way to start, but apparently the man is still a little edgy.
“Don’t worry,” I say softly, and trying to put it a different way, “I’ll conduct the interview quickly and we won’t make heavy weather of it.”
He still seems to be nervous. Anxious and on-edge. There’s a stormy atmosphere building and it would maybe only take him a millisecond to change from a positively charged mood to a darker negative one. His hands are on the arms of the chair and he is balling his fists up.
“Let’s start with your name then.” I say.
“Rodney. Rodney Beacon.”
“No!” I can’t help myself and I try to stifle a chuckle. Not quick enough.
“Something funny about that?”
I struggle to regain my composure. “No, not at all. Umm… can I call you Rod?”
Rodney stands up, moves his face to within an inch of mine and I can feel the sudden searing heat of his anger. “NO YOU CAN NOT!”
I seem to have inadvertently sparked off some repressed memory and maybe struck a nerve, so I struggle to find some words that will calm him down again.
“Look, Rod… Rodney, please, sit down. Let’s start again… I’m sorry. It’s just… well… let’s move on, eh?”
Rod… Rodney, sits back down again. I am thinking hard, carefully picking my words to find an angle that wouldn’t set off this sensitive man. The interview would probably come to an unexpected end if I trigger a similar explosive reaction again.
The secretive lightning strike survivors group was only a rumour, and my careful and gentle investigative work had taken years. Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, I had an email from Rod… Rodney, and with this one-in-a-million chance they were now ready to engage with me.
I am keen not to stumble into any more potential flashpoints, there’s a good chance some of his stuff could be electric.
“So, umm…,” my brain is shouting me don’t call him lightning rod….don’t call him lightning rod…don’t call him lightning rod….
“Rodney er… so,a lot of girls would call your look ‘smouldering’, how do you do that interesting upright hairstyle?”
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