It was the summer of ’17, and the moon was sliding like a lid over the sun. We stood at the bottom of the well, eyes strained upward through the darkness of our viewing glasses, the only light the slivering orange slice of sun in endless night.
It was the summer of ’17, cars piled like stone altars in a lonely field. It was a monument to a time when Detroit still churned out cars with American efficiency, Norman Rockwell families trundling down country roads to gaze upon giant balls of yarn and roadside diners and—in the distance—we spotted the hopscotch henge of Cadillacs and Fords and Chevys erected in tribute to a spirit of frontiersmanship, of freedom and wandering. Around us were the other nomads, carting lawn chairs and coolers, donning baseball caps and sporting matching event T-shirts. The Nebraskan plains stretched beyond our eyesight in all directions. And the moon continued to slide.
It was the summer of ’17, and night was approaching under pretense of day, its coming like a thief pocketing a gold coin and leaving a penny in its place. The sunset that penned us in was the magician’s trick, the spectacle that had allowed the sleight of hand to occur. But for those moments we saw it as it was—the empty spot where the sun should have been, a smoking blue flame in its wake.
It was the summer of ’17. The sun was setting. Aproned mothers rang dinner bells, men came in from the fields, children scrambled up front porch steps. Corn stalks rippled as the world sighed and drifted into dreaming.
It was the summer of ’17, and the sun was rising just before noon. A new day had begun, a night passed without sleep or visions. Fathers lifted daughters down from truck beds as mothers snapped grass from blankets, fabric rippling like sheets on a clothesline. Engines awakened and grumbled. Dust bloomed along dirt roads—the contrails of flyover country.
It was the summer of ’17, and we had experienced the rip van wrinkling of time. From the back seat of the pickup came the lulling vibrations of the suspension over gravel. What we had witnessed was already falling into the fathoms of fantasy. How could Artemis draw her crescent bow against Apollo? Yet this we had seen, the killing of the sun, and how the land at our feet had taken on the pencil sketch of moonlight.
There were tears among the watchers of history, gasps and hiccup cries. A salvo of applause as the shadow of the moon advanced like an army. Each of us had taken a side in that cosmic battle, but now the vigor of our emotion was unnerving. By waking from the dream, we became amnesiacs and were unable to justify the depth of our feeling. Without a thing in the sky to point to, I could only turn my finger to my chest.
Here. I feel it here.
It was the summer of ’17. Soon the reborn sun would doze against doorframes like a barnyard cat, dappling the ground with its tabby light. August was tottering toward autumn, the late afternoon handkerchiefs of sunlight caught in the branches of elms and maples and … parachute as leaves on prairie winds come fall when all the roving children of the land would trade in sticks for pencils.
For now it was the summer of ’17.
Time yawned and rubbed its eyelids.