Dog Days

Once every third Sunday of summer, we felt the transitory. We, in our dog days, floppy-eared, were children, and the filaments stretched until they were not time at all, but a sip of lemonade and last night’s broccoli sandwiched between our teeth. It was in the crack between the passenger’s seat and the driver’s seat, stuck in the corner of our eyes, and beneath our fingernails, and in the spring of our pens, and the low hum of lawnmower three streets down, blanketed by the lull of cicadas that climbed and ebbed throughout the day. At two in the afternoon, when the next-door neighbor set his sprinkler on the front lawn, and the first droplets confronted the ever-present dew of June and July, the hush grew into a silence more deafening. The breeze conducted trees in a lullaby of midday, a solemn solstice if any, an unwelcome but ceaseless respite, as if fear was never of darkness at all, but of an unspeakable light, permeating, penetrative, parading itself between fire hydrants and porch swings, frothing at the mouthpieces of water fountains in the public park, piercing in the yelp of a dog after midnight, spread among the peanut butter and jelly in the plastic bags at the day camp, inching its way into the public pool, potent enough to render chlorine impotent, just a stench wafting from blue water, too youthful, almost like bones.

Our mothers never knew where we went once every third Sunday of summer, when the air grew heavy on our suburban rooftops, and compressed any mind into a putty that oozed outward, through the back door and into the yard, under the wooden fence, and toward the forest. We came to find that the forest was never a forest, but once every third Sunday, the remnants of early August gusts and beautification committee campaigns became that which our muddy minds willed them to be, for when the air grew heavy it weighed upon the grass, and the lilies of the valley, and the hydrangeas, and the fragmented bodies of the young trees past Grove Street, and they too melted, coagulated. And so we, fearless, melted out the back doors and bedroom windows, and became the trees, and were the forest, and we saw Edith look at us from her bedroom window two houses down.

If there was any wonder in the melted tar of summer it was that we allowed ourselves to be inebriated by the scent, youthful Bacchic chorus yet untouched by bacchanalia, or altogether ignorant, dancing not to lyre and timbrel but to silent summer lullaby and the drums over the stereo of the neighbor’s Hummer, engine rumbling as he walked out in gym shorts, sweat-legged, to turn off the sprinkler. The grass, gasping for sunlight beneath its slick layer of pesticide, had drowned, stripped of dewy afterglow, and we, giddy, used it to coat our feet instead of sandals, with lawn grass laces and onion grass soles, before we reached the forest at last.

We would never admit that we hid the bones of Edith’s dog in the backyard, or that we hid the collar of Edith’s dog in her own backyard, just beneath the Southern magnolia bush, or that we uncovered the bones in the forest once every third Sunday when our mothers were at church and we should have been eating our sandwiches. We would never admit that we hated Edith’s dog, and the way it barked at bedtime, and that it was too small, and that its legs shook constantly. We would never admit that to Edith’s parents, or our parents, or the round policeman at the door in September, or the rounder policeman at the door in October the night we dressed as ghosts, fleeting, transitory, haunting Edith’s dog’s bones in the forest and on the playground.

It was not our idea. The silence was too loud, and no one ever liked Edith’s dog, or Edith. It was the summer, its bulbous, ephemeral bulk, heavy upon our rooftops and our lungs and our fists— frenzied, coated in sprinkler water and pesticide, sublime, sticky with lemonade stand juices and grape jelly, scented with a strange mingling of chlorine and wishbone— that put the bones in the backyard, and conducted the cicadas, and sang us to restless sleep come autumn.

Adalyn Model is a New Jersey native and current undergraduate student at Smith College. Her work has appeared previously in Canvas Literary Journal, and has received national recognition by the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.

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