Yearly, it seems, The Observer has to write a breakup letter to summer, our lovely June groom gone threadbare and fetid in the heat, welcome outstayed, his crisp green button-up and sunflower yellow tie long since doffed in favor of a sweat stained undershirt, our loitering houseguest having cleaned out the fridge and talked us all into going on another beer run, twice. You hear the old-timers down at the corner say it, pinch faced and extra grouchy as they whittle a willow stick into a Neanderthal spearpoint: Something is wrong with the weather.
Summer is hanging around longer these days, and that is a fact. Oh, we've always had hot spells in September and even October; hot Halloweens where the kiddies sweated plumb through their plastic Wonder Woman smocks and the jack-o-lanterns rotted on the doorstep. It is Arkansas, after all, where if you don't like the weather, wait three hours and it'll change. Arkansas, as always, is the midpoint between Everywhere and Nowhere, and that includes the weather, buffeted as we are by the low-speed collision of dry winds from the west and moist winds rising up from the Gulf so that in any given month we might get a tornado followed by snow followed by a rain of frogs scooped up and deposited here by a waterspout over Lake Pontchartrain.
But this year seems to be different. Summer 2017 lingers on like a low-grade fever, going strong into the 90s during the day and July hot at night, the flies and mosquitos and toads none the wiser that the world just celebrated the autumnal equinox or that Hobby Lobby has already stocked all the Chinese-made plastic skeletons and turkey-festooned crapola. We're beginning to wonder if the head of summer is eventually just going to swallow the tail, giving us 12 full months of July, like they get for long stretches in Westeros on "Game of Thrones."
Mother Nature's wristwatch runs on the dimming of the light and the cooling of the air, not on days and months and years, like our own. But nature's clock seems to be sprung this year, and so summer ticks on, oblivious, the leaves unfell, the long grass still appointed by bees and grasshoppers and fat, glistening snakes that should have long since been denned up and still. Somewhere over Africa, a moth is lifting from a blackgreen leaf, churning a swirl of wind off her wingtip that will spin and grow, spin and grow before heading out over open water to become one of the string of arsenic pearls that bear down on homes and lives half a world away, churning the rubble of the previous monster hurricane's passage into ever finer and less recognizable rubble.
It's been an Arkansas summer without a single 100-degree day — heat indexed and Real Feeled 100, sure — but no true temperatures over a hunnert. That's welcome, but still troubling. Even when The Observer was a lad, Arkansas could be counted on for at least one triple-digit day, the weatherman using the word "scorcher" and showing the busted thermometer graphic, telling people to limit their time outdoors, as if some people have a choice in the matter. Could it really have gotten to 115 degrees in downtown Little Rock a few years back, the skyscrapers seeming to wilt toward the river in the crippling heat. It can and did, as The Observer can attest. But this year, not a single 100-degree day? That, in itself, is weird.
"Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it," one of the old farts down on the bench on the corner plagiarizes, using his Case knife to add a series of cruel barbs to his spearpoint, a drop of yellow sweat clinging to his nose like a crystal ball, already Sept. 26 and his light jacket and heavy coat still gathering dust back home on the back of the closet door. "Yep," say the other old farts. They have seen a few summers and know how things used to be. None of them has to say it, because they've all said it before: Something is wrong with the weather. And what, The Observer wonders, will it be like by the time Yours Truly takes up his own jackknife and joins them?