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  • by Janet St. John

Art & Soul Short #23

Vern Edwards. Black and white photograph. “Solstice.”

Sun Shower

The women got wise in the sweltering weeks since school let out. Their sons and daughters, wilted like garden violas in high noon heat, kept setting off pre-July 4th flares and fireworks. Not the literal kind. Just temper tantrums and petty arguments over princess gear, PlayStation, and swimsuits. The children wanted what they wanted. So did the women.

Those who worked away from home wanted education- or activity-filled days, to return to kids with stories, kids who’d learned something, had something to say, were glad at their dinnertime homecoming. The ones who worked at home wanted an early end to summer, though it had just begun, kids back to school for seven hours, time to play their own music or soak up a bit of silence.

All of the women planned weekend waterpark trips, camping excursions, and hours in freezer-box movie theaters. But by summer solstice they’d exhausted their options. The kids were bored, snappy, tired of being indoors in AC or burning bare feet on blistering concrete, tired of sleeping in and sleeping past precious predawn cool of high desert morning before the days road elevator-up thermometers to unbearable.

One at-her-wit’s-end woman told three other women outside the town’s second-best theater, after seeing the latest Pixar film for the third time, “We should hose these kids down or something.”

“Great idea,” said the woman who lived outside of town and had a large lawn her husband kept ever-green, trimmed like his careful beard, where their quadruplets rigorously practiced soccer, though they weren’t playing much now. “I have just the spot.”

They all assembled the next day. The women hauled out hoses and sprinklers, turned the water spigots to full blast while the kids stood around, mocking the old school setup, lamenting the local pool’s closure due to cracks and algae proliferating in the plaster. The women dared their daughters and sons to strip down to swimsuits and enjoy the cool down.

Three boys stood together, arms crossed, reluctant, until the smallest stepped forward and from behind a nozzle ran his hand through the spray. It was colder, stronger than he expected. He made a shivering gesture to his friends.

Soon, the women were clapping, their daughters dancing through the largest sprinkler showers, screaming at the cold and laughing. The boys wanted that fun and stripped off t-shirts to bare chests, paler than their tanned necks and arms. One woman focused her camera on her two sons and their best friend just as they grabbed each other’s hands and charged into the spray and fray. She smiled shutter-clicking, capturing frames and frames of their shock-joy. It made her think of brisk spring morning walks. It made the boys think of clear-cold autumn night star hikes. The boys shook off excess water like dogs and ran through the showers again, splashing through soft puddle-pockets in the grass, their skin cooling-wet under mists and fountains of chilled deep-from-earth well water, beneath heat-of-day sun, before the gleaming eyes of mothers and sun-touched hair of girls they secretly fancied, reinventing one simple pleasure.

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