Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer in the South, II

July.

The pomp and circumstance of the Glorious Fourth has receded like outgoing tide and all that's left is the flat dull surface of superheated asphalt. June's hopeful beginnings lie deep in the past, dreaming in shady pools of memory. Now it's July, down-to-business summertime. Every day is the same: A stretched-out cavalcade of heat and humidity, punctuated by the occasional evening thunderstorm.

Tempers are short. Businesses crank up the A/C, even at 2 AM. Store windows are filmy with condensation, transforming everyday clear-cut interiors to surreal fogscapes. Old men sit on intersection corners beneath unraveling beach umbrellas, selling sugar-baby watermelons and boiled peanuts off their pickup trucks' rusting tailgates. Fans turn lazily on front porches; an ice-choked glass of sweet tea with lemon is the only thing that satisfies.

Children easily found just two weeks before, lustily parading in freedom from organized education, are nowhere to be seen. They hide in the air-conditioned shadows of their houses, their friends' houses; when their mothers shoo them outside to play they cluster in any air-conditioned spot they can find: shopping malls, grocery stores, bowling alleys, swimming pools, libraries. Even though they won't admit it to each other, part of them aches for the long, climate-controlled hours of school.

It's not just the kids. Everyone is off the streets, out of the sun, in the A/C; at 3 in the afternoon everything is bright and hot and still. There's not a car on the street, not a moving shadow to be seen. Outside the bees and butterflies have become true monarchs and the people have given quarter to the elements, for now. The only sad souls out in this oven of an afternoon are those who have to be, and when they make eye contact with each other, a silent plea seems to pass between them - is it five yet?

Mimosa trees are wilting, losing their color and scent; the few blackberries left on bushes are picked over by birds and baked in the heat, nothing but rounded clumps of coal clustered on the briars. In contrast, crepe myrtles bloom in florid hues of red and pink and purple. Trees - only a month ago vibrant and green with new summer gloss - are a tired and uniform shade, blending into each other like one huge organism.

The day drags on and heads into evening; all the while, sunlight hours grow imperceptibly shorter with each passing day. Softball games are won and lost. The tantalizing smell of grilling meat floats in the air of every subdivision. Sprinklers run endlessly - hish-hish-hish-hish-hissssssshhhh... A yellow rind of moon rises in the darkening sky. The evening star hangs on the lip of the horizon like a wet beauty mark. Everything is sleepy, soporific. Everything is slow.

Everything is summertime.

15 comments:

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Summer dosen't seem to last for long as half way through we have found leaves discarding the trees already, Is Mother Nature trying to tell us Autumn is not far off?

Yvonne.

Sophia said...

This read like poetry, sultry and lyrical and languid. I'm not a big sun lover but still, reading this made me sad it's grey outside.
- Sophia.

Candyland said...

Beautiful descriptions. I'm not a fan of summer. I can't wait for fall...

J.L. Stratton said...

Outstanding Post! I was drawn into this prose like a siren call! Wow, the picture you painted with wonderfuls descriptions of elements, colors, feelings, and tactile facilities.

You could publish a four-hundred page book of these same words and I would sit patiently, reading the entire thing.

Again, loved this post.

Will Burke said...

I'm a little evvious of your scene-setting. You sure know how to put someone in an environment!

Dawn said...

I love the lyrical quality of this post. Very nice. I love summer, but we've had a wet, dreary July thus far.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You have so eloquently described the hell that is summer in the south!

Cruella Collett said...

I remeber reading Part 1, which made me want to experience summer in the US South. Reading this, I still want to go see the South, but I think I should pick another time of year... I nearly melted in D.C. last August - the South would make me a puddle in no time.

Great post, though. Beautiful imagery!

Jemi Fraser said...

Fabulous writing! You've evoked powerful images.

Being a teacher I got stuck on 'climate-controlled hours of school'. My classroom temperature hovered between 85 and 95 for most of May & June. Nasty stuff!

Ellie said...

Summer in the south is like living in a sauna. I'll never get use to it... You painted it well, today was brutally, with two severe thunderstorms. One shutting the power/AC off at dinner time. I'm ready for Fall~

Jayne said...

Hello! I cam by from Al's lovely blog, and I really enjoyed reading this. You paint such a vivid picture, I can almost feel the heat, see the mist rise from the asphelt, and smell the BBQ. Thank you for that little time-travel! :)

Hart Johnson said...

somehow you make even the miserable heat and abandonment of the outdoors sound beautiful. I'm not sure how you do that...

reberto.alberto said...

Hi there!

Shortstorybook.net is organizing a short story writing contest.

We do think that you too might have a marvelous story to tell, one that is your own! So if you can compose it in not more than few words, we would want to hear from you. Also, you stand a chance to get your story published on our site and win cash prize of USD 100.

“Then what are you waiting for? …put on your thinking cap and get writing. For registration and other information check - http://bit.ly/short-story-contest-2010

Happy writing!

Laura Marcella said...

You've captured how it's been in PA recently, too. Heat wave after wave! The heat isn't so bad; it's the humidity that kills ya! I hate it when I'm doing something that exerts little energy, like brushing my hair, and I'm sweating. Ugh!

I really like both your summer entries. You paint such vivid pictures with your words!

Lola Sharp said...

Love this piece. Well done.
I miss home/SC.

It's triple digit hot and humid here (in NJ) too.

(catching up...I was away on vacation for over 3 weeks)