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Going to Market, Early Morning by Thomas Gainsborough, circa 1773
"We're partners here …"

If I'm going anywhere today, I'd be wise to go early, before the sun and the smoke and the aridity become even more determined to have their way with me. I thought I caught a patch of blue in the sky this morning. The wind shifted overnight so I woke without my eyes stinging themselves shut again. My throat feels rough and the consistency of tapioca pudding, sinuses screaming again. By the last week of August, the elements combine to produce a neigh-on to unlivable environment. The lawn feels crispy underfoot regardless of gold-plated sprinklings, thin underlying soils seemingly thinner after rainless weeks. The monsoon never showed up this year. As each day progresses, the slight almost cool of early morning gives way to another baking, the sun, even through the smoky batten burns without thinking once. The sunrise lasts much of the morning as the smoky haze extends the reds and oranges until nearly noon. Afternoon seems fit for little more than napping, perhaps in a puddle of fine dust, the way an exhausted HownDog might approach it. Time fit only for practicing hibernation. There's no place to escape to but dreams.

The view from every lookout seems cruelly foreshortened and spare. I drive in a tunnel of heavily amended air
hardly fit for breathing. I catch myself almost dozing off, my usual reference points obscured. I think that I might have gotten lost, but how could I have gotten lost unless traversing a sudden Twilight Zone? I could believe anything about this place. It seems bait-y and switch-y, similar but not nearly identical to what I usually drive through to get to town. Once down the hill, the town, too, seems restless and sleepy. Cars and people move in seeming stop-action, a quirky movie made by rank amateurs. I feel fairly certain that I have no business being there. I could have and probably should have just stayed home. My water bottle seems to empty itself on the long slog back up into the foothills, foreboding surrounding me every inch of the way.

These seem ill at ease afternoons, conditions not quite right and not terribly conducive for accomplishing anything. I turn reclusive, even to myself. I forget to eat lunch again until later when it's too late to eat without infringing upon supper again. My senses shut down in deference and I practice my impermanence. I must certainly have become a near master of impatience by now. Supper never seems that eager to appear these HownDogAfternoons. The Muse works late then later and The Otter's disappeared into the recesses of her room again. The kittens simply want to escape and stay out ever later after dozing completely away another HownDogAfternoon, no day different now. The absence of difference, the hard damned certainty of sameness, numbs. I ache to move beyond this most boring of chapters, but I remain wary, too, for far too few weeks remain before summer's demise, and though she's grown long in the tooth, I'd just as soon skip the whole autumn and winter movements this go-round. There apparently is no middle ground.

I find my sanity in the very early mornings when I'm not too desiccated to move my ass up and out into it again. I drink a quart of water hoping I'll rehydrate. I let my hair go wild through the morning and stumble down the stairs to stare out as the critters groom our meadow, shadows long. The barest hint of humidity hanging where some overnight comet must have left it. Where else could moisture have possibly come from? A magpie discovers an almond I'd left for the squirrels and quickly takes possession of his prize. He pecks at the shell just as if he knew what was hidden in there for him to find. The shell proves impervious, but he cannot relinquish his prize. He seemingly proudly struts around the meadow, almond protruding from his haughty beak, stopping again and again to peck and then peck some more. Magpies collect bones. They furnish their nest homes with bones too big for them to swallow. I leave my chicken wing, leg, and thigh bones in a small bowl on the deck and The Magpies reliably swipe them away after chipping off any lingering flesh, polishing first. We're partners here, bone collectors and hangdog bags of bones, sustaining each other through hazy mornings and overlong HownDogAfternoons.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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