Clair McFarland: Sleeping Outdoors Under Shooting Stars And Elon's Satellites

Clair McFarland writes, "The boys and I sleep outside every summer when the first crop of hot, windless days leaves nothing to cool the brain except its dark nights."

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Clair McFarland

July 14, 20235 min read

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There’s only half a can of summer vacation left. 

The bug spray’s running low too.  

Wyoming was too hung over to ignite its furnace in June like usual. No, we held onto spring until mid-July.  

And back when it was April, we still had winter. If you don’t believe me on that, I’ve got a kid’s April 13 toboggan party birthday invitation that says so.  

I kept wondering if the weather was trying to punish one of us, and if so, which one?  

Monday when the heat finally hit, the boys and I spread our vertebrae and let the sun liquefy our wind-curdled spinal fluid.  

At last — summer.  

The miller moths showed up Tuesday, meeting for a flighty crapfest in our chandelier.  

The wasps arrived Wednesday, staking their territory between the porch swing and that fire-maple tree a rogue hurricane sliced in half last week.  

I saw a life hack on the Internet once claiming you can stun wasps with gasoline, but I don’t want to try it until the boys’ fireworks stashes are completely empty and they stop farting around with lighters in their pockets.  

The little, feisty twin doesn’t have any patience for bugs. He glazed his entire body with DEET spray.  

“That’s too much, buddy,” said I.  

“Nahhh. It’s perfect,” said Little-Feisty.  

“Actually, you only want a little bit,” I continued. “Because this one time at the lake, your grandma slathered herself in bug spray and she had a reaction to it, and she went to the hospital. And she’s been allergic ever since.” 

Little-Feisty looked down at his shimmering arm. And up at me. And down at his arm. His eyes widened, but then he gathered himself. 

“Whut,” said Little-Feisty. “There’s no WAY that happened. No grandma doomsday stories allowed.” And he wielded the can of Off! at me like a bayonet. 

“But it’s TRUE!” I said.  

Little-Feisty wasn’t sure, but he set the can down and backed away, slowly.  

Anyway, I figured it was time to tent out.  

The boys and I sleep outside every summer when the first crop of hot, windless days leaves nothing to cool the brain except its dark nights, seeping into one’s pores. In honor of this, The Husband built a 20-foot-tall platform a couple years ago on a hill behind our house. 

We pitch two tents on it, cache our blankets and flashlights, and drag the ladder up onto the platform so no housecats, mountain lions, skunks or hippies can possibly disturb our abode.  

The Husband waved “goodnight” to us from the porch and flashed his “y’all are crazy” smile.  

Once all was settled, I reclined between two sleepy twin boys and sighed.  

But in their neighboring tent, the big boys decided to bicker, nastily.  

“YOU’RE ON MY TOE,” roared my Firstborn son.  

“Am NOT,” protested Middleborn. “That’s your book.” 

“DON’T BREATHE SO HOT THOUGH,” answered Firstborn, who at age 13 has lost control over his vocal range.  

Middleborn inhaled loudly.  

“No, no, no,” I spat. “Don’t hold your breath for him. Just ignore him if he doesn’t want to have a good time.”  

“I AM HAVING A GOOD TIME,” said Firstborn. 

Just then, I realized who the long tornado season had been trying to punish.  

I tried to ignore Firstborn and focus on the stars.  

“Look! A shooting star,” said the big, sweet twin.  

“Nahhhh,” said Middleborn. “That’s not a shooting star, that’s Elon Musk.” 

I squinted through my glasses. Sure enough, satellites roved the heavens, mechanically.  

“Good-nighhhht Elon,” sang Middleborn.  

“Night, Elon,” echoed the other boys, dimly.  

I bit my lip and traced the stars around the satellites. Out here in the country, they aren’t distinct constellations, but layers and layers of spilled glitter, melding forever.  

“We are blessed,” I murmured.  

“We ARE blessed,” echoed Little-Feisty, draping his arm around my neck and tapping my nose with his own.  

“EXCEPT FOR ME,” roared the teenager in the next tent, who had a mosquito in his ear.  

“Except for him,” I said with a nod. “But he’ll be fine in a year or two.”  

Everyone drifted off to sleep. But Big-Sweet, who often savors jokes for, like, an hour, chuckled in the dark.   

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter