Lightning Rods

In Lightning Rods, the two fathers that Margaret mentioned in Gazebo, Silas Quiller, her father, and Bert Astor, Gretchen’s father, both 55, are on a downsloping rooftop in 1919.  Silas is putting up lightning rods and Bert is sitting, watching him.  We hear the sound of thunder in the distance.  Bert says that a storm is coming and that he came up on the roof because he wanted to see a man dumb enough to put up lightning rods in a thunderstorm.  He asks if Silas is bothered by people talking about their relationship, of Silas building a house next door for Bert and his wife.  When Silas asks Bert to get him a lightning rod, Bert refuses, and Silas gets it himself as Bert warns him to be careful.  Bert talks about his dead wife, Barbary, who had “tits for the ages,” who lived in the poorest area in town, and who had a reputation for being the “biggest slut in Pendragon County.”  Silas, he says, married the petite Potdorf girl from a land poor but respectable old farm family, and he says that if Silas is bothered by his wife’s family then he and Silas could just kill them.  He wonders, since the storm is getting closer, if Silas would like to go inside and take turns screwing his wife, or his daughter.  Silas tells him to shut up and after a pause Bert remarks that he misses his wife who got into a tub and cut her throat.  He says that Silas actually seemed to like his wife while Bert could never stand her (although he does enjoy fucking her).  Silas asks Bert if he loves his children, and Bert replies that Clyde and Gretchen could be anybody’s children.  He asks Silas if he loves his children and when Silas says he does Bert wonders which of Silas’ children are his.  He says Maggie looks like her mother, Con looks like Bert’s dead brother, and Clyde looks like a moose.  He says neither his son Clyde nor Silas’ son Clyde have as much brain as ear wax and asks why Silas named his first-born Clyde.  Silas says it was after his mother’s father who died in the Battle of the Wilderness.  Silas again asks Bert if he loves his children and Bert says that that is an awfully funny question coming from a man who is putting up lightning rods with big ass bolts of lightning coming towards them.  Silas says that Bert’s son is engaged to Silas’ daughter and his son is engaged to Bert’s daughter.  Silas tells Bert that he walked in on his daughter while she was taking a bath and told her to lock the door in the future.  Silas says that Bert’s daughter is troubled and asks what Bert did to her.  Bert says that Silas  is feeling remorse for the stealing and raping and killing they did out west and tells Silas he has to turn off that part of his brain that feels bad about it.  He says that’s the secret of success in America.  Silas says the sight of his naked daughter’s body in the bath brought it all back to him.  Bert wants to get off the roof before they’re both fried like a couple of pork chops.  He says he’s on the roof because Silas is the only friend he has.  Silas asks Bert if he came to where Silas was living to blackmail him about the past.  Bert says that Silas is his only friend and that they have things, memories, between them.  Silas asks if Bert loves his daughter and when Bert says every chance he gets Silas tells him to come over to help put up the lightning rod.  He asks Bert if he loved his wife and if he wants his daughter to end up the same way.  He orders Bert to help him.  As we hear the sound of the storm approaching, Bert says his wife was lonesome and lost when he met her and he told her to sleep with Silas, even though she didn’t want to, because he was sleeping with Silas’ wife, even though he didn’t like her.  He says his daughter used to trust him but some things you got to put out of your head.  Lightning flashes and thunder is very close as Bert moves shakily to Silas, slips, and clutches both hands around the lightning rod as he falls on the wet roof.  Silas stands holding the lightning rod and tells Bert when he asks that he is Bert’s friend.  There is an “enormous lightning bolt and thunderclap” as the lights go to black.

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