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Tonton and the Thunderstorm


Tonton looked out from his bedroom window. For some reason, he felt afraid and frightened. He could hear, and feel, that there was a storm coming, and he did not like it at all. His mother and father were sitting downstairs in the living-room, reading, and talking to each other. They did not seem to mind in the slightest.

But Tonton did. He was frightened of thunderstorms. The noise – the terrible claps of thunder, the bright flash and the jagged streaks of lightning that always said ‘ listen to this great thunder!’ The way in which a sudden zig-zag of light, coming in an instant, and hitting the earth, and then those awful few seconds before there was this gigantic noise – a deafening crash and rumble in the sky! That frightening few seconds between the light and the sound! That was the worst thing about thunderstorms, and what he feared and hated most. He also remembered his father telling him about a friend from his university, who, as a child had almost been struck by lightning.

It happened like this. His father’s friend had been walking to school one morning when a thunderstorm had started. An enormous bolt of lightning struck a metal grille in the road, only about two metres away from him. He described later that he was blinded for a moment by the flash, and didn’t know what to do. Then there was a great clap of thunder, and the little boy sank down to his knees in fear. But ho took courage and hurried off to his school.

But Tonton’s thought’s were interrupted by a sudden rumble of thunder, and that was when the storm began. Great streaks of light began to fill the skies, followed more and more by sounds of thunder. Tonton ran to his bed and covered himself completely with his duvet. He felt safer inside the little cocoon he had made for himself. But it still didn’t shut out the thunder outside. He cried and whimpered a little, hoping the storm would go away. But it didn’t. It got louder and louder, even though he had his hands over his ears. The thunderstorm almost seemed to be inside his little burrow, and he became more frightened by the second.

And then, for no reason at all, he suddenly remembered that he had overheard a story that his father’s friend, the one who had almost  been struck by lightning, was telling to his mother and father. Tonton had not meant to listen, but he had heard the word ‘thunderstorm’ mentioned, and he was curious. “It’s strange,’ his father’s friend said. ‘About why children should fear thunderstorms so much. When I was a child, I was frightened of loud fireworks and balloons bursting, but I don’t mind that so much now. And I really like thunderstorms’.

‘Why is that?’ asked Tonton’s father. His friend explained. ‘ This is the reason. In the west, where I come from, parents always comforted their children by saying this. It is simply the gods in the sky that play games with each other. The thunder is the sound of their laughing, because they are having such a good time. The lightning are the thunderbolts that they throw at each other, and they always miss, and so they come down and hit the earth instead. It always gets a bit out of hand! Thunderstorms are simply the gods having fun!  And they pick up wet rain-clouds and throw them at each other, and of course, always miss, and that is why there is always a lot of rain, because it all falls down on us, on the earth below. It is not a very scientific explanation, I know’ he added apologetically, ‘ but it is an interesting way of seeing what a thunderstorm is, and it is a good story’.

Tonton’s father laughed. ‘ I must tell Tonton that. I know. You make this into a story for him, and I will read it to him. He will enjoy that’. ‘ all right’, said the other, ‘ I’ll do exactly that’.  The more Tonton thought about what had been said, the less frightened he was. So, plucking up his courage, and still wrapped in his duvet, he moved slowly to the window, and looked out again. More lightning flashes, and crashes of thunder that made him jump. But now he could think about it, it wasn’t so bad after all. ‘It’s only the gods playing, and having a party. They’re just enjoying themselves’ he thought. And it was at this point that he began to realise just how beautiful a thunderstorm could be. He stayed by the window, watching the lightning streak down, listening to the deep sound of the thunder, and the rain pouring down in torrents. And it was there that his father, coming in to say good-night, found him. ‘I’m not afraid of thunderstorms any more’ said Tonton. ‘I know it’s only play’. And, as he went to sleep that night, Tonton smiled to himself. He would never be frightened of thunderstorms again.


Frank Jackson 5/10/06.