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The Observer, Aug. 20 

The Observer was on vacation last week, which meant that we spent a week inside, with the blinds drawn and the air conditioner on Hi-Cool. In our troubled youth, we used to try to make every vay-cay an event, running all over Creation trying to pack joy into the week before we were expected to report back at the salt mine. These days, though, we find there is so much bliss to be had just by sitting still, especially when the air outside seems hot enough to flash-fry a chicken before he can let out a good yelp. Doesn't use much gas, either.

 

The Observer was over at a friend's house recently, having a fine time in the company of pals, when we managed to break our host's couch.

The Observer is a big 'ol boy, with all the grace of a John Deere combine. Add to that the fact that we tend to be a little accident prone, and you can see why our greatest fear when visiting the homes of others has always been breaking their furniture. While we make sure that all the chairs in Chez Observer are only a few button tufts and a little upholstery away from being two cinder blocks with a plank thrown between them, we can't account for the sturdiness of the furniture we encounter elsewhere, which is why ? more often than not ? we're happy to stand, thank you.

Against our better judgment and possibly due to a few beers we had during dinner, we decided to park it on the sofa after we had supped. Like a lot of the rest of the stuff in our friend's place, his couch is a piece we've long admired: an oak prairie-style settle in the Craftsman style. It's probably not a real Stickley (we HOPE it's not) but it has a lot of Stickley in its genes. We're kinda nuts about that style of furniture, owing mostly to the fact that it's carefully designed to be sturdy without seeming bulky, unlike Yours Truly.

To its credit, the couch bore The Observer's weight as we sat there. But when we went to get up, there came a sickening crack and the front crossbar dropped. As luck would have it, the owner was in the room at the time. Together, we stood there and looked at it, broken. The Observer, mortified, mumbled about wood glue and clamps. The man of the house, true to the reason why we call him a friend, just smiled, clapped us on the back, and told The Observer not to worry about it.

The gods never fail to remind us of the impossibility of perfection on this mortal plane, do they?

 

On a Sunday night a few weeks back, the lights went out at Chez Observer. We live in the city, in a hilly little neighborhood full of bungalows, so it is never dark there. Nightwatchers line the streets, and most every window at night is filled with the calming blue flicker of a television set.

That Sunday night, though, just after we had run Junior through the shower, observed the teeth brushing and got him ready for bed, the lights winked once, twice, then went dark. We fumbled in a desk drawer until we found a flashlight, then went out onto the porch. The entire neighborhood, we found, had been cast back to 1890. For blocks all around, there was not a light to be seen. The street was gray in the moonlight. Spouse came out onto the porch behind us, then lit some little candles that she has sitting there on a table between our two porch chairs, the candles usually for decoration only. Down the block, lightning bugs rose from the neighbor's yard. Until that moment, we had honestly never realized that there were lightning bugs in the city. With all the air conditioners off, it had never been so quiet there. We could hear the crickets, and the frogs. Across the street, a flint sparked, and then another candle was lit, casting a strange yellow bubble of light that contained our neighbors. Junior, dressed in fleece sleep pants, came out on the porch and sat cross-legged on the warm concrete. He asked his Old Man to tell him scary stories, so we did, working our way through “Where's My Golden Arm?” and “The Hook.” Eventually, he started yawning, so we walked him back to his dark bedroom, and tucked him in by flashlight. By the time the lights came back on, he was asleep.

The Observer is no Luddite. We love our gadgets and modern conveniences, There are, however, wonders to be found in the dark.

 

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