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every man a king
joe mosher's rewrite
The heat moved in on us in the very beginning of July, wrapping tight and invisible around everything so that breathing became work and sticky sweat was squeezed from every pore. By mid-month, it had hunkered down, dug in its heels and stubbornly refused to be beaten, even with the lake so close by. Out deep, maybe the water was cool enough to be some comfort, but Steffy and I stayed in close with Billy. He was only five, not yet ready for real swimming, not yet old enough to be left to himself on the shore while we swam for ourselves. Near the thin strip of sand and the short jut of a dock that was our entrance to the lake, the shallows were bathwater, and no relief whatsoever.
On the evening of July 19, the three of us sat out on the deck and picked at our supper. Steffy had made ham sandwiches and potato salad, but the only thing any of us found appealing was the steel bucket full of slushy, fast-melting ice and cool bottles of Pepsi. We were quiet, subdued by the temperature, staring off past the still trees at the flat surface of the lake. Off to the left, high on a pole over the boathouse my father had built back in 1936, our faded American flag hung like a dead thing. It was hard to remember that same flag dancing in the spring breezes off the lake, just weeks before. It was hard to remember anything in that heat, hard to think.
Everything changed just before dark, and it happened fast and unexpectedly, like a miracle or a tragedy. The storm announced itself grandly with a blaze of lightning that ripped across the far side of the lake, and then the silence exploded in thunder. Rain came in fat drops, spaced widely apart to begin with but becoming a solid wave by the time we were able to scoop up Billy and the remaining food and run into the house. A wind chased us, blessedly cool, but I was too preoccupied with carrying my son to safety to look back and see our flag come back to life. That storm was vicious, angry; I had never experienced anything like it and pray I never do again.
But at least it broke the heat.
Joe Mosher may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.