In a not-very-profound rut the idealizations are steam-powered: a battalion of firefighting fleas who jump the bandwagon and fight very small flames. Many are toasted to a crisp; old fireflies tumble from the chalice like the skeletons of midgets. Some survive, however, and fly on to candy-colored days where the only predators are beautiful dragonflies.
The rubber wheel of fortune overruns us all: some have all the luck, and avoid death for ten, even fifteen days, with a new flame every day. But most of us go within the first few minutes of active duty, new to the field, consumed by birds, frogs, and rattlesnakes, or gassed by meddlesome humans desperate to clear the trenches. It’s an unsettling world, this outdoor carnival where we sit exposed to the elements. Under the gas masks we tremble,
but the enemy can’t see this; and a single faceless soldier is more powerful than a whole naked platoon. And so the fireflies don flight suits and come tumbling out into the red-clay dusk, a signal flare of obsolete frequencies, a green flame of old phosphorescent stories. Grandfather catches the little nuggets as they fall screaming, a popcorn potpourri of delightful little shells. What a happy crunching sound! It’s great to live atop the food chain.
In our buzzing rooms we overrule the land as politics seep into our tea. At town meetings we sit debating this or that proclamation: “The ice-cream avarice of nations is hereby rendered irrelevant; now the chlorophyll tug of small-town governance can sing its siren song and lord it over the beehives.” The Queen, though unimpressed, dispenses honey same as usual. It is a fancy time, a time for indulgence without regret; a time when we rush to collect the maple sap from unmarked trees and sticky up our faces with loose pollen-pods.
The nectar is strong this year. It is the only year we can remember.