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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–more picnic

It sounds like I am exaggerating.  I am not.  It’s strange, shimmering, and it lasts for a few seconds or maybe a minute or two.  When the moon gets in a certain place and all the light is bent right, the atmosphere itself acts as a fantastic, unimaginably huge telescope.  And the moon is suddenly a great orange, curious kind of disk.  Very strangely misshapen—and it’s not very beautiful, it’s a little scary.  It’s dark orange.  It’s called a blood moon.  Have you ever heard the term “blood moon”?  It’s red.  There are gray, smoky drifting wisps that just hang there.  And it’s hot.  Oh my god, is it hot.  It is so hot that you just sit and no matter what you do the water just pours off you.  It drips.  The humidity stands maybe at a hundred-and-forty to a hundred-fifty-percent.  You can just reach out and grab a chunk of air and wring it out.  You just sit there.

The mosquitoes start to move out of the swamps and the shores of the Lake.  They start moving out of the reeds roughly the end of July, and they become epidemic around the middle of August.  You see these great black swarms.  It looks like drifting puffs of dust and smoke.  You can see them outlined against the moon.  Great, drifting clouds of mosquitoes.  You can hear them.  You hear a long, low, distant hum all the time.  Mosquitoes.

And bats.  The bats come out.  You can see these bats around eight or nine o’clock fluttering around the street lights.  See a little bat—pluplupluplu—off he goes.  He is eating right off the top of the hog, because they love when the mosquitoes are out.  By the way, it’s one of man’s very few total defenses against the mosquito—the bats.  In many states they’re protected because a bat will just fly through a swarm of mosquitoes with his mouth wide open sucking.  He’ll just suck ‘em in and he’ll eat millions of them in a day.

So you see the bats and you see the drifting mosquitoes, you see the moon hanging low.  It’s hot.  Once in a while a car goes by.  You can smell the heat from the car itself.  The paint and the bad upholstery.  It just lies there.

It was on a Saturday just like that.  The temperature maybe ninety-five, the humidity the same.  The mosquitoes moving out.  The big moon just about to come up.  Schwartz came by on his bike, said, “Me and Flick and Bruner are going to a picnic.”

More picnic to come.

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