“You’re such a dreamer,” Peg replied with a pinch of envy. “I’m so logical and boring, and you’re a mystical dreamer.”

“You’re not boring,” Nelly told her. “And I’m hardly mystical. But do you ever wonder why you were put on the earth? I’m sure we have a greater purpose than doing nails, don’t you?”

“I thought you like your job,” Peg said.

“I do, I love it. But that’s not the point.” Regrettably she wasn’t sure what the point was. A roar of thunder sliced the air and rocked the girls off the wooden bench on which they were perched. As they rushed toward the rear entrance of the salon, a bolt of lightning struck Nelly, causing her body to stiffen like an ironing board and then fall to the ground in convulsions. Peg screamed for help as rain lashed down and paparazzi darted out of the bushes. After being rushed to the medical center, a battery of tests was performed. Nelly regained consciousness and doctors were optimistic about her recovery. The hospital’s publicity-hungry spokesperson Priscilla Skinner informed the ravenous press that the patient was in stable condition. “By the way, my first name is spelled just like Priscilla Presley’s, and I’m wearing Betsey Johnson,” she informed them.

The following day, an attention-grabbing picture appeared on the front page of the Folding Daily Press. Clearly visible was a singular lightning bolt striking Nelly’s left shoulder. The image was so startling that it looked like a still shot from a movie. The headline read: “Nature Vs. Nelly.”

According to scientists, one hundred million volts of electricity had ripped through Nelly’s shoulder blade. Sitting in a wheelchair in the hospital cafeteria, the patient responded to questions from journalists while her mother and Priscilla stood a few feet away.

“What do you remember about being struck by lightning?” Stanley Zane of the Lone Tree Tribune asked.

“I remember my shoulder burning. That’s about all.”

“First a meteorite, now lightning,” Nan Mills of the Flying Eagle commented. “Why do you think nature is singling you out?”

“I don’t think nature is singling me out,” Nelly said. “I’m just having a run of bad luck.”

“It’s a run of bad luck, that’s all,” Priscilla repeated with a forced chuckle. “Ghastly, ghoulish, gruesome luck I wouldn’t wish on a hog.”

“Will your experiences keep you indoors for a while?” Nan Mills asked as a follow-up.

“No way,” Nelly said. “There’s nothing more inspiring than mountains and lakes and trees. And a clear sky when the blue is so brilliant it looks freshly painted.”

“Do you think some kind of evil force entered your body?” Otto Barraclough of the Blount Pulse asked.

“Of course not,” Nelly replied. “I’m just an ordinary person.”

“She’s as ordinary as Bibb lettuce,” Priscilla said. “Plain as tissue paper, stylish as Styrofoam.”

“I’d like to ask Mrs. Hagen a question, if I may,” Blair Dozier of the Buckeye Salt Buzz said. “Where is Mr. Hagen?”

“Mr. Hagen left us twelve years ago,” Cookie stated.

Blair nodded sympathetically. “Can you tell us the cause of death?”

“Oh he didn’t die,” she explained. “He left us. But a few months after that, he swallowed a toothpick at a diner in Sioux City. Caused peritonitis and killed him,” she explained with a contented smile. “An invasion of foreign matter into the abdomen.”

The reporters took a moment to digest this disturbing bit of information. Then Alice Farrow of the Opelika Post spoke up. “Do you practice witchcraft?” she inquired.

“I certainly do not!” Cookie exclaimed in a sudden burst of anger. “How dare you ask that? I’m a church-going woman and so is my daughter on occasion. What do you practice—idiocy?”