Summer Goes into Overtime


    So it turns cold. It rains for the first time in three months. The tops of the sweet gums are all of a sudden not quite green anymore.

   Tink and Z obsessively pack and repack their school supplies, try on new jeans, panic over a set of markers that just won’t do. I lug all the fans downstairs. I dig out the down comforter, the one from IKEA that just won’t fit any of the duvet covers. I close the sliding glass doors, the ones that have been open all summer, inviting bugs of all kinds inside, where Tink and Gary lie in wait with their butterfly net, collecting prey for the frogs. The frogs, once tinier than raisins, are now hefty chocolate almonds.

    But then it warms up again. And then gets warmer still. Gary hauls all the fans back up the stairs.  The sun comes out. And stays out. I fish my scratched sunglesses out of the trash. We eat on the deck. Paw wears shorts, his legs white and hairless as a marble statue. We make a mad dash to the beach, the girls humming with a kind of restless elation. Their school is so broke it is the last system in the state to open. Driving to the coast, we get stuck behind a school bus and they laugh long and hard, equal parts derision and glee. The beach towns are all but abandoned, just retirees and weary locals, all of them eyeing Z and Tink like they’re children in a cocktail bar. We park smack dab in front of the candy store, eat alone in the pizzeria; the waitress lingers, making conversation.

    One last bike ride down the old train corridor. We make it farther than last year, but still not all the way to the end. One last game of tennis. We are terrible. We allow unlimited bounces, ignore the white lines and take pride in “ground balls” – scraping the ball off the court with the edge of your racket. When someone hits the ball over the sixteen-foot fence, we scream “home run!”

One last batch of fried chicken, which, for some reason, I only make in the summertime. Grease on the stovetop catches fire and the four of us stand in front of it, watching for way too long. Finally I pull the pin on the fire extinguisher and the half-second burst fills the house with an asphyxiating white powder. We scuttle outside, blinking, spitting. Tink, barefoot, wanders off to take one last turn around the driveway on her scooter.

    Monday, Gary will leave on a business trip; he is likely to be gone more than not until January, at least. Z and Tink will enter grades I am sure I’m not ready for. Tuesday, Maw has four appointments, the beginning of a serious investigation into just what is wrong with the right side of her heart. Then comes the avalanche of holidays. We expect twenty-nine people for Thanksgiving.

    But tomorrow we will hit the farmers’ market one last time, wheeling Maw through the crowd, piling corn and tomatoes and berries and watermelon in her lap. We will come home and the girls will watch old movies with Gary, a longstanding tradition designed to dull their night-before anxiety and bore them into sound, early, sleep. I will make what I think is enough peach ice cream to last us for a while, but by bedtime, it will all be gone.

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