Ain’t So Sure Bout the Summertime Muse

Crickets and cicadas singing, chirping, rumbling and humming, day and night, incessant. Their murmurs blend with the clanking of the window unit and box fan, running to supplement the taxed central unit. The distant growl of mowers and weed-eaters complete the cacophony.

My own lawn is ankle-high, despite having mowed it four days ago.

It’s the first day of July. It’s also Saturday. I hadn’t realized until I glanced at my phone, a quick check of bewilderment as the weather app still declares we’re currently in the throes of a torrential thunderstorm. Glancing out the window—frosted over from the frigid interior air on one side of the pane and the sweltering soup on the other—all I see are fiery sunbeams streaming through the verdant branches of an elm. Just beyond heat radiates in waves from the asphalt.

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I’m just gonna’ go outside and … NOPE!

The attachment of my rump to the recliner is permanent nowadays. My lapdesk sits in a state of perpetuity on my lap, trapping heat and causing my thighs to trickle sweat beneath denim. The flash drive hasn’t been ejected and tucked in my messenger bag in at least two weeks. Why would it? What reason do I have to pack it up and relocate my work?

On the end table to my left the most recent issues of The Atlantic, Harper’s, and The New Yorker are fanned out, covers crumpled from reading. I’ve gotten to where I mostly peruse the short stories and poems, maybe the occasional non-political essay, cultural reviews, science and technology. Current events are just too damn depressing.

Michael Chabon’s latest effort sits beside the periodicals, bookmark stuck in the middle of chapter two. What I’ve read is compelling, but a few hours ago, I found myself staring blankly at the page.

The Kindle rests underneath the desk lamp, its screen dark, though I know upon waking it I’ll be greeted by the crossword app, yesterday’s attempt still unfinished, three clues missing as I continue the internal ethical debate forbidding me from using Google to complete the task.

The coffee was tepid a couple of hours ago when I’d had my last sip. Now it’s chilly. I should zap it in the microwave for a few seconds, but that would require getting up. A stern rebuke to my java-snob folkways, I guzzle the remnants and choke it down.

Four documents are open on Word: a half-assed conference proposal I’m still fine-tuning four weeks later; a chronological, non-comprehensive list of Spider-Man movies and TV series, both live-action and animated; a short story that I’ve been editing since the middle of May; and one blank page save the single entry “[Working Title Here].”

The tabs on my browser are Facebook, Gmail, my other Gmail, my bank account which has been logged out due to inactivity, a YouTube video from the Pine Hill Haints, a database of alleged bigfoot sightings in Alabama that is efficiently separated by county.

A ding prompts me to check my new email. It’s from a local microbrewery I frequent when the semester is in full swing. “We miss you!” they tell me before offering a coupon code for $5 off, a bribe to get off my kiester and enjoy some hops. It’s a little unnerving that they’re keeping tabs on me. Tradeoff for the convenience of having your receipts emailed to you, I suppose.

My dog nudges my knee and glances up with enormous solicitous eyes. Drops of saliva fall from her tongue onto my jeans.

“Can you hold it for a few more minutes?” I ask and she deferentially plods to the couch, wallowing and snorting until she’s curled herself into a nook beside the outer arm.

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Hard to say no to that face, but I’ve had a lot of practice.

I’m temporarily denying her an opportunity not only to relieve her bladder but to sniff and experience the sensory wonders of the outdoors that only dogs and children seem to appreciate. Sorry, I’m busy.

Sure, it’s summer—ceaseless, sweltering, miserable, tedious summer—but that doesn’t mean I don’t have projects, just that I ‘m working at my own pace. No 8 a.m. classes to prep, no stack of essays I’ve foolishly assured my students would be back in their hands by Monday, no department-wide email to compose and re-read for the better part of two hours before hitting send and realizing there was a typo in the third paragraph.

No pressure, no deadlines, but I still have to be productive. I click on the Facebook tab.

Oh, cripes! Trump tweeted what? There’s my buddy’s cat again. How does she keep getting herself into those crazy places? Oooh, a video on how to perfectly cut a watermelon. Mmmm, watermelon. I should get one of those. I think of them as a summer holiday treat, but we do have a holiday coming up. Right? I mean, shit, every day is technically a holiday for me right now.

My dog farts and jars me from my Facebook coma. She hasn’t moved, but she’s glaring. It’s not about her flatulence; dogs are notoriously unselfconscious about their bowels. Nothing more needs saying.

I sigh, slap the laptop screen shut and mentally prepare myself to swim through the gelatinous air. She’ll sniff every blade of grass, clinching her butt until the very last moment, prolonging the jaunt. My journey to Hell is a never-ending fount of wonder and stimulation to her.

But I’ll have to rush her along. After all, I have work to do.


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