© 2009, by Michael Schwaba
by Michael Schwaba
When the fall season moved in, Earl, the only barber in Waketon, Illinois, warned his customers to beware of an exceptionally warm Indian summer because it was sure to be followed by a blistery cold winter. One of his customers scoffed, “In other words, the same thing that happens every year.”
Earl had not been put off. “I’ve got Cherokee blood running through two of my fingers,” he was fond of saying, “and it’s telling me that a storm’s coming. Indian summer will be late…”
Nobody gave much credence to Earl’s Cherokee blood, or his theories on the weather, but he had been right about this, and from then on, there were some in Waketon who felt uneasy whenever Indian summer approached, and not just because of Earl’s storm prediction. No one was gloomy about warm days and cool nights, or lingering smells of dried leaves and hazy smoke. But in the fall of that year of Earl’s forecast, when the twenty-first century was still several years off and no one was thinking much about it, it seemed certain, at least along the river, that there would be no Indian summer at all. The days of September instead had brought icy winds and stabbing rain across the plains and hills, bleeding away the final heat and dust of summer. The storms gusted for days, and everything natural that was not prepared for an early winter seemed fixed in time, frozen like a memory of some awful trauma. Woodland creatures were silent and hidden. People lit their furnaces, stocked up their woodpiles, put away their more genial thoughts along with their summer clothes and remained inside.