Solstice

Gary V. Powell

So convinced were our neighbors that the world, as we knew it, was about to end that on the morning of the summer solstice they donated their personal property to charity, abandoned their comfortable, four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath-with-family-room home, and relocated to the backyard tree house I’d helped Drew build earlier in the spring.

There they maintained vigil.

This evening, while enjoying a bottle of wine on our screen porch, my wife and I scented hickory smoke from their campfire. I’d accompanied Drew’s wife Hillary when she’d purchased the wood that fueled that fire from an old blind man in Mooresville who also believed, in his own way, that the End Times were upon us.

“They’ll freeze come winter,” she said.

“If they last that long, or the world doesn’t end.”

“The world’s not ending.”

“It’s as likely as not.”

“If it ends, it ends. So what?”

“They believe there will be a new world order,” I told her. “They believe they’ll have more say the next go-around.”

“More say,” my wife repeated the words and finished her wine.

That morning, on my way to the office, I’d heard on the radio that 35,000 people gathered at Stonehenge last year to celebrate the solstice. They watched the sunrise and stayed awake throughout the longest day of the year to better attune themselves to the rhythms of the natural world, to embrace the season’s waxing and waning, and to reconnect with the cycle of birth, growth, death.

I poured more wine and shared this information with my wife.

“Hippie shit,” she said. “A few months, we’ll go to work in dark and come home in dark”

“I’m just saying, thirty-five thousand souls.”

She cocked an eyebrow. “Souls?”

Twilight faded to darkness. Candles placed in the unscreened windows of Drew’s two-story tree structure flickered across the way. Later on, as stars filled the sky, we heard chanting and music. Shadowy forms danced on Drew and Hillary’s lawn. Jacob, the seven-year old, and his sister Molly held hands.

The music swelled to a tantric rumble.

“They’re naked,” my wife whispered. “I hope they’ve got bug spray.”

A squad car turned onto our street, rollers flashing.

My wife rose from her chair. “I’m done. I’ve got an early meeting. Are you coming?”

“Not yet.”

I felt an obligation to see this through. I was no Believer, but I wouldn’t have minded a little dew between my toes, a little starlight on my bare ass.

————————————————————————————————————–

Gary V. Powell is a former lawyer and stay-at-home dad to a thirteen year-old son. His stories and flash fiction have appeared most recently at Bartleby Snopes, Literary Orphans, Thrice Fiction, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, and Camroc Press Review. In addition to winning the 2015 Gover Prize for short-short fiction, his work has placed in other national contests including The Press 53 Prize (2012), Glimmer Train Short-Short Contest (2013), and The Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize (2014). His first novel, Lucky Bastard, is available through Main Street Rag Press. A self-published novella in three stories, Speedos, Tattoos, and Felons, is a prequel to Lucky Bastard.

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