(note the electrical outlet to my right)


With its cream-colored face,

the electrical outlet frowned.

Secured in the wall next to the family dinner table,

six inches from my 3-year-old ear,

I kept an eye on that outlet at every meal.

Someone, likely my brother, told me to never

toss water into the outlet because it would

shock me. So I was careful with my drinks.

Spilled milk frightened me—what if a drop of it

splashed into the outlet?

I always wondered how the electricity

would know, if two or more were gathered, exactly

who the water-thrower or milk-spiller was?

To whom would it lash out?

Would it zap my brother if he were the cause?

Or would it strike me, the one whose right ear was a

mere six inches from the socket?


Spring thunderstorms remind me of that

outlet. Clouds, purple with anger, breed

lightning. Veins of electricity shoot up the night,

aiming to kill, looking for someone to blame.

Would lightning hit a guilty party?

Or would it strike an innocent woman who just

happened to be near?

by Cheryl Unruh


The Whims of Electricity is from Walking on Water, my newest book and my first collection of poetry. It’s available at Ellen Plumb’s Book Store in Emporia, The Raven and Signs of Life in Lawrence, and at Watermark and Eighth Day Books in Wichita. It can also be purchased online from Meadowlark Books.