Texas Summer Again

Last year I decided to write a Texas Summer piece every year at the first day of 100 degree temperatures in my area.

That was yesterday, apparently.

While I don’t have the new piece ready yet, I am working on it. I have another project that I’ve been trying to complete in the meantime. Sometime this week I should have my Texas Summer piece for 2013.

If you don’t know the magical mysteries of the Texas Summer, I can’t really explain it to you. It’s not the smell of hot water running out of a garden hose. It’s not the continuous drone of cicadas or the shimmer of heat off asphalt.

I don’t know what is – I just know that it only happens in Texas.

Here’s last year’s piece:

This rock we eat, sleep, and fornicate on careens through another cloud of debris and our eyes widen at the sight of meteors streaking through the skies. But time loathes our memories of this passage. Time takes our firefly dreams and throws them into the grass. Time kicks our childhood into glowing smears in the high grass.

There is one Texas Summer that time cannot kill.

The boys and I had managed to rig an old washing machine inside a tractor wheel using lots of Crazy George’s duct tape we had stolen and some abandoned extension cords. I still had a crush on Gina that summer, but the pup love would fade after she put her palm on that asp later that year while climbing Crazy George’s oak. I guess George got his revenge on us through that fuzzy demon. I couldn’t tell you then why that scream of agony from that little girl turned me off of her. It scared me to know that someone had felt pain like that. I didn’t want to feel that pain, or know someone that had.

Damaged goods, I guess.

We meticulously filled the washing machine with as many pillows as we could and still leave room for a body. I took my mother’s throw pillows without her knowing, but in the end they always know. I didn’t get the belt that night, I got the paddle – a sick twist of irony, being that the thin wood of that particular instrument of punishment had once been a paddle ball toy.

Texas summer is a cacophony of cicada madness. You start to hear it even when its not there. Your sprints through the high grass send swarms of bugs into the big sky, and some days, the bugs are the only clouds to see.

Adam took the first roll, and what a terrible racket that contraption made as we pushed it over the precipice of the hill behind the old Ford dealership. We knew our time was limited, so once his ride was ended, we yanked Adam’s crumpled body out of the machine and set him aside. It took us another fifteen minutes just to haul the contraption back up the hill.

I wanted to go next, but Gabe was already in, his coonskin cap cocked sideways over his frighteningly blonde hair.

A week earlier Gabe had eaten a bunch of angel dust that Mike Cheevers had given him under the juniper tree at the corner of the Burnside fence. Gabe didn’t know it was just a bunch of pixi stix powder, but he still managed a convincing performance all the same. A few years later, Mike Cheevers gave him some meth and now Gabe’s lost.

Years later you find a reason to hate the trailer park crowd, though as kids, they’re just as daredevil as any suburbanite wanna-be. I don’t blame Mike, I blame Gabe’s preacher father.

When it came my turn, most of the duct tape had come loose, so we found some old chain in Crazy George’s shed to secure our mad scientist machine.

The door had been ripped off when Gabe finally had his turn, so when I first felt my stomach float up into my throat as the tire began its death roll down the long hill, I was treated to a view of the world on spin-cycle. With a metallic clang, the washing machine broke loose and separated from its rubber shielding. My arms and head went out the hole and I got tangled in the flailing chain. The other end of was still attached to the tractor tire and it yanked my shoulder hard enough that it popped.

My ride ended in a heap of rubber and rusty metal with me at the bottom.

I felt the flush of boyhood pride. The bigger the crash, the bigger the bragging rights. I was still bearing rights on having touched a girl’s breast first out of all of us from earlier that month, so I was doubly proud. Taylor Boggs’s sister was a few years older than us. She had her hair cut short and wore jean shorts that her ass cheeks hung out of. Her breasts were small and hard, but that doesn’t mean much when you’re a young boy. She told me she’d let me touch them because I was special. Ten years later, I asked her again and she admitted that I was the only male to ever touch them. This upset her lesbian lover.

Once the boys pulled me out of the wreckage, a handful of parents had arrived, but none of them were mine. My daddy was still sleeping off a gig night, so Adam’s mother laid down the law on me. She punished us with double-stick popsicles out of her coffin freezer. They were just the right temperature to freeze your tongue.

Crazy George had a son, Jacob,  that was in high school. Occasionally, he’d come out and play Star Wars or G.I. Joe with us, but mostly we only knew he still existed by the sound of his father screaming at him. We used to hide under the bushes right under Jacob’s window and listen to the violent spats. Sometimes Jacob would play Yes or King Crimson or Jimi Hendrix or some other musician we were too young to appreciate.

“Hey kids,” he said to us that afternoon. My lips were still stained purple from the tongue-freezing punishment. “Come play outside my window for a bit.”

I guess we gave him funny looks, because he tried to explain:

“I just need to hear some happiness outside my window right now.”

What the hell did we know about melancholy? We were kids.

Gabe grabbed his AT-AT and I dug Bazooka and his men out of Mr. Kemp’s sand pile where we’d left them. It was to be a brilliant battle.

Adam had Cobra Commander setting up a bush base with Beastor and Hordak, and I took Zartan and Ponda Baba over to the storm drain where they were going to launch an assault against Gabe’s AT-AT.

Music started to play, but we ignored it.

Gabe set fire to a stick and tortured Destro for information as somewhere someone might have insisted it took place in the court of the Crimson King.

We had never heard a shotgun blast up close before. The window shattered and Jacob’s broken skull lolled backwards through it spilling his melancholy brains onto Cobra Commander’s strategically sound bush base.

I remember looking down at bloody glass on my dirty legs.

King Crimson played on for a long time as we sat there, stunned. We knew we had just grown up in a matter of seconds.

Crazy George stared at us through the window and I’ve never seen an adult show fear like that ever again.

Maybe it wasn’t Gina’s scream that turned me off after the asp incident, maybe it was the fact that I’ve always needed to scream since that Texas Summer and I never have.

Damaged goods, I guess.

Time hates a Texas Summer.

But this is one Texas Summer that time will never kill.

The one thing I remember about that Texas Summer…

…is that it was so fucking hot.

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