Children of Summer


rainy window.jpg

It’s rained a lot this year.

We’ve had a deluge of water plummet from the sky.

I’ve only lived here for two years but this much precipitation seems odd for Southern California.

We’re starting to find the cracks in our buildings. Things grow in the dark places under benches and rocks, in the nooks and crannies we didn’t even know our homes had until we detected a strange odor and opened a cabinet to find it full of green.

I had a teacher. Ms. Something-or-other. I remember she was a Ms. and not a Mrs. more than I remember her name because she rarely said her name but she told us all the time about her failed marriage.

We we’re in sixth grade. We just wanted to lay on the floor and watch the overhead fan spin. If you watched carefully you could trace the individual blades with your eyes and it would look sort of like it wasn’t moving at all.

Ms. Something-or-other told me that a lot was a bad word because it didn’t mean anything. I told her it did. She asked me what it meant. I just said more than some.

She didn’t like that.

Better, she opined, to use words like many or several. These words, she told us, had meaning. They had a more concrete value than the lackadaisical a lot.

We didn’t care, though. We just wanted to go catch coquina shells on the beach. They would all sink back under the watery sand when the tide went it. If pressed, I would say there were a lot of them.

Ms. Something-or-other probably wouldn’t have liked that.

But we were children of summer.

South West Florida didn’t have seasons back then. It probably still doesn’t. It has summers. There is, starting from the top of the year, the pollen summer, followed by the wet summer, followed by the hot summer, followed by the good summer, the greatest of them all, dry and temperate, sometimes even cold.

The good summer was nice even though all of the old people came down and clogged-up out roads. Sometimes they would drive the wrong direction on I-75. That wasn’t much fun.

We didn’t care, though. Instead we were in the mall, eating pretzels and chasing the girls around.

I had never understood summer or spring. In music class we would wear romantic orchestras blasting out lovely melodies in honor of the rosy spring and verdant summer, but none of us ever got it.

“Why do they like summer so much?” I would ask Joe Quinn.

“It’s just a bunch of rain,” he would say, her nervous eyes narrowed in skepticism as a flute tweeted and twilled like a bird.

“You can’t even go outside,” I added over the oboes.

Maybe that’s what they liked. Orchestras spent most of their time inside. All they needed was an excuse.

I went to college in Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham is a place that has four season, but their all terrible except for fall. There is so much pollen in spring hat I could see it wafting across the quad in great yellow cloud, engulfing freshman fooling enough to try to enjoy the good weather. They would come out the other end on all fours, coughing and clawing at the ground, begging God to open up their air passages. Tears streaked their faces.

Summer had the heat of Los Angeles with the humidity of Florida and the bugs of the Amazon basin. You could only go out at night, and my, those nights were magical. We would prowl around the quad, smoking cigarillos and laughing off the buzz we picked up at the J Clyde.

Sometimes we wold kick things, things like lamp posts or tree trunks, not out of malice, but simple to test if they were really there and this all was’t part of a dream or movie.

Fall was the only tolerable time of year, but it lasted for about two weeks in mid-November.

Winter was cold enough to bite but warm enough to rain. It would be wet and 43. It felt like the heat-death of the universe.

I moved to Los Angeles and expected eternal summer. What I got was perpetual drought. Sometimes it was a cold drought. Sometimes it was a hot one. Most of the time it was a pleasant drought, like the countryside had gotten into a classy hospice.

But this year it rained.

If pressed, I would have to say a lot.

People don’t talk about the drought anymore.

They talk about the unrelenting rain and the perpetual cold. They talk about the holes in the roofs and the green in their cabinets and the brown water-stains on their ceilings and their wet bike seats and how there’s no reason to go outside if you’re going to get wet.

They talk about dreams of summer.

I do too.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to spring and summer.

For the first time in my life, I get why the musicians played.

Because I’m a child of summer, a boy from a land of heat and water, a creature of the everglades and the beach and the sand and the golf courses and the estuaries and the boats and the water skies and the tubes and the wave riders and the pools and the slides and the sprinklers that fired off droplets that would catch the late afternoon light and explode into sprinkles of magic golds that would tumble into the grass that was quickly turning into mud but you didn’t care so you kept jumping and jumping and someone would come out with the water balloons and the kids would screech and for a moment, just for a moment

time stopped.

It froze.

And you wanted to kick something.

Not out of malice,

no, not that,

but just to make sure

that this

was real,

and not a dream

or  just

a part

of some movie.

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Witches And Other Such Nonsense


three witches

Some of my more loyal followers may recall the dust up I had with a coven of witches about two years ago, so it might come as no surprise that the real reason I moved from the East Coast to California was not, in fact, to chase my dreams of selling words to people, but was rather simply to get away from witches.

I don’t have a peculiar odor, I don’t leave food out overnight, and I don’t feel attuned to any sort of magic, and yet I attract witches like a playground attracts creepy forty-year-old men in sunglasses. At least the witches don’t sit on benches, legs spread wide, and toy with their mustaches while muttering “yeah, that’s good. That’s real good.”

But I digress.

I moved West to get away from witches. Imagine my surprise, then, when I woke up yesterday to the sound of someone bouncing pebbles off of my third story sliding glass door. I rolled over and curled a pillow around my ears. This had little effect on the pebbles, which bounced and pinged off the doors with  abandon.

“Hells bells!” I roared, throwing off my sheets and rising like Nosferatu from my slumber. I manhandled the sliding glass door open. It had fallen out of the grooves months ago, and now slides as easily as the boulder in front of Jesus’s tomb did.

Divine help is required.

I looked over the balcony ledge. Three women in ratty black robes stared up at my balcony. One was short, one was tall, and one was pretty. I’m not saying that the other two weren’t pretty, I just know witches, and I know that’s how they prefer to categorized.

“Can I help you?” I asked them.

They entered into a conversation with each other. I couldn’t hear what they said. Minutes passed.

“Okay, I’m going back inside. Don’t throw rocks at my windows anymore.”

“We weren’t throwing rocks,” the tall one said. I looked at the stones in her hand.

“Pebbles. Whatever, look, the point is I don’t want you throwing anything at my window short of gold doubloons, okay?”

“We were just trying to get your attention! “The short one said. She twirled her brown hair around her index finger.

I waved my hands in the air, irritably. “You have it, madame! But to what end?”

“Well,” the pretty one said, “we’re three witches –”

“I already know,” I shouted.

“How?”

“Because, sadly, the only women who would come into the creepy alley behind my house and hurl projectiles at my broken sliding glass door to get my attention wouldn’t be anyone normal!”

They balked at the world normal. Red crept up my neck.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean normal. You know what I meant.”

“We know exactly what you meant,” the tall one spat, with the sort of vigorous hatred only an old person could muster, “we fly on broomsticks, dance naked in the moonlight, seduce young men tour our beds, kill them, talk to frogs and commune with the devil, but since it doesn’t fit into your WASP worldview, it isn’t normal, right?”

“Hey…”

“Ass hole” the tall one said.

“Now look here, if anyone’s the ass hole, it’s your three… or should I say you three are all ass holes, for throwing rocks –”

“– pebbles –”

“– things at my window!”

“We just wanted your attention,” she short one began.

“But again, ladies, why?”

The pretty one straightened her robes. “We were wondering what you were doing tonight.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. Maybe you’d want to come over, watch some Netflix and chill.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“You just said you lure men into your beds and kill them.”

The pretty one shoved the tall one. “Damn it, Gretchen.”

“Well I’m sorry,” Gretchen said, not sounding sorry at all, “but he got me all riled up talking about normal this and normal that. Normal! What the fuck is normal, anyway?”

“Normal is not telling our prey we’re going to lure him to our beds and then kill him.”

I rested my head on the balcony’s ledge. “I didn’t think California had witches.”

“We’re everywhere, buddy.”

“Yeah, get used to it.”

“I’m going back inside,” I told them.

“Wait wait wait wait wait!” the pretty one shouted. I stopped.

“What?”

She fished around in her robe for a few moments and pulled out an apple. “Want a shiny red apple? I swear there’s nothing sinister about it… ” The witches covered their mouths and giggled.

“Sure! Toss it here!” I said with fake enthusiasm. She threw me the apple, and I hurled it down the alley. A cat screeched.

“Hey! It took days to poison that!” The pretty one shouted.

The short one hit her. “Shut up, yah idiot.”

The pretty one made an aggravated noise and tried to poke the short one in the eyes. The short one intercepted the poke.

“Oh, a wise guy, huh?” The short one waved a fist around in the air, ready to strike. The pretty one watched it. The short one smiled, and then kicked her in between the legs.

I swear to god, the pretty one’s eyes crossed.

“Hey,” the tall one said, coming over and knocking the other two’s heads together, “knock it off!”

SLAM! My sliding door shut, and I was gone form the balcony.

The witches stared at the balcony.

“Our stooges routine didn’t even work!” the short one said.

“Fuck LA. This place is no good for witches.” The tall one said. “There aren’t even woods to cavort in.”

“Lets go back east.”

“This guy wouldn’t have been good anyway.”

“I bet he never gets lured into people’s beds.”

“Hah, burn!”

I threw the sliding glass door open. “I CAN STILL HEAR YOU! I’M CALLING THE POLICE.”

“Fine, fine,” the tall one said, holding up her hands, “we’re going.”

The witches shuffled off and left.

I watched them go, and then felt kind of bad, so I checked my phone.

October fourth. Twenty-seven days to halloween.

They’ll find someone.

Maybe I will too.

sexy witch

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