I used to wish for things. Lots of things. In the third grade, I wished that a girl I liked wouldn’t move away. She did. Later, I wished that the tight ankle roll I’d apply to the hem of my jeans wouldn’t come undone during the school day. But they always did. Later still, I’d wish for a listing or a sale, I’d hope for something to break my way. After a decade or so of futility, they did. As I’ve grown older, my wishes seem less important than they once did. In the third grade, the act of that girl who didn’t even like me moving away was very devastating, my wish rendered useless. Today, I don’t even know what I’m wishing for. At least I didn’t know, until a couple of weeks ago.
Times were, I’d spend this month wishing for more. Wishing for the sun and the heat, for the calm water and the continuation of a summer that never left me feeling full. I craved summer, and how much more delicious that summer was that came after everyone else thought it had ended. I’d boat and I’d swim, I’d work and I’d play. I’d live my best life in September. The life I was destined to live, the life I wished for without knowing it. Typically, on this late September morning, I’d be out there, living.
But not today. That’s because it rained on Labor Day, and it rained a lot. It rained the day before, too. And maybe the day before that, and a few before that one. It rained too much, and we all knew it. What we didn’t know was what would come next. A swarm. A plague. When we hid in our houses on Labor Day, we bemoaned a soggy end to our summer, but we didn’t understand the greater evil that was brewing. Or breeding, as it was. Those puddles left behind, those low lying areas of mud and wet, those corners of shade under the trees where the grass won’t grow. The rains came and the rains went, but they left behind those incubators of terror and we didn’t even know it.
My house is normally a nice place to live. It’s in the country, but it’s close. It’s a rare combination here, something out away from the people but something so near to it all. During the month of September, it wouldn’t be a surprise to drive by my house in the evening and see my son shooting hoops. I’d play as well, only for a while until my back hurt and I realized that I will never, ever, regain whatever semblance of basketball skill I used to possess. My wife might be out tending to her chickens. We’d be enjoying the cooler, calm afternoons, aware of their fleeting nature and wishing for just a few more weeks. Things would normally be pretty, pretty, nice.
Those rains, though. Those rains and those puddles and then that sunshine and that heat. The nicest two weeks of the year followed that dark, stormy holiday weekend, and those puddles warmed and billions of biting demons crawled from that yard soup. The mosquitos, normally an afterthought by this time of year, came back with an ungodly vengeance. They bit and they ate and they sucked and they ruined. Basketball tonight? No thanks. Lawn needs morning? Pass. Garbage cans need to be taken to the road? What, and walk that 500 feet through a winged, sucking gauntlet, the likes of which no one has ever seen?
Today, I’m no longer wishing for summer. I’m just wishing for a hard frost. Damn the flowers and the rest of the fall niceties. If we have to kill summer to kill these bugs, I won’t lament the cost. This time around, I’m only wishing for the death of the mosquitoes and their banishment to eternal hell, and no other wish I’ve ever wished has mattered nearly as much.