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The summer air was hot and sticky. In my bed I turned from one side to the other and moved my legs to find a cooler spot on the sheet. I closed my eyes but sleep was the farthest thing away. Sounds were everywhere keeping me awake. The crickets were singing their nighttime songs, and the clock played its steady rhythm as I counted ticks and tocks, one-by-one. Then the house creaked and gave me a little fright.

In the moonlit room shadows appeared larger than life and I tried to keep my eyes closed. I heard a train in the distance. “Whoooooooo Whoooooooo,” it sounded. A cool breeze came through the window and tickled my skin. “How nice,” I thought, wishing for more. But then it was gone, and the still air hung heavy over me like a blanket. Firecrackers went off in a neighbor’s yard. Some boys laughed and ran away. So many sounds when everyone is supposed to be asleep.

My eyes couldn’t resist peeking around the shadowy room. With a start, I noticed a ghoulish figure with big pointy ears and long sharp teeth standing along the far wall. His arms seemed to be reaching for me so I quickly pulled the covers over my head. “Mom, there’s something in my room,” I cried. Mom came in and turned on the light. “What is it,” she said. “Over there!” I pointed to where the creature had been but nothing was there except Louie, my old stuffed bear. The moonlight made his shadow look scary but there he was, smiling at my from the top of my dresser. “That’s silly,” I said. Mom smiled. “Isn’t if funny what shadows can do? There’s nothing to be afraid of in here. So you get some sleep or you’re going to be tired in the morning.” Mom blew me a kiss, turned off the light, and walked down the hall to her room. Her footsteps echoed in harmony with the crickets outside the window. A chorus of wind chimes rang unexpectedly as another light breeze teased the humid air. So many sounds when everyone is supposed to be asleep.

The moon rose higher in the sky as I lay quietly trying to relax. I shut my eyes but the insides of my eyelids were like a movie screen playing all my thoughts back to me. I could see the swimming pool where I swam earlier in the day with my best friend, Cindy. Her cat Molly was lying on a lawn chair in the sun. I stubbed my toe on the concrete and tried not to cry in front of my friends, but it hurt so bad! In the end the tears felt hotter than the sun on my cheeks.

I turned over from one side to the other once again, just in time to catch another breeze. I could smell a sweet, familiar scent. Mom calls it jasmine, a night-blooming flower. Imagine that! Flowers that bloom in the night! The air quickened and I heard some papers rustle on my art table. A little flash of light in the distance meant a storm was coming. I could hear the low rumble of thunder, and a car alarm went off somewhere down the street. A dog barked, and then, “Whoooooooo Whoooooooo.” I never heard so many sounds when everyone is supposed to be asleep.

I got out of bed as another rumble of thunder sounded. My toe still ached a bit, but I tiptoed down the hall to Mom’s room and opened her door. “Mama, can I sleep with you tonight,” I whispered. Mom moved over and let me lay in her spot. She leaned over and kissed my forehead. “You’re so much like me, aren’t you,” she said. “I can never sleep on these hot nights either, but we’re in for a storm. Let’s lay here and watch the lightning show.”

As the storm grew closer, a gust of cool air parted the curtains as if to announce its arrival. Jasmine air filled the room as Mom pulled the curtains open, and we propped up our pillows, waiting together for what looked to be a grand performance. Lightning bolts darted across the dark night sky and bright white flashes made it look like daytime, just for a second. We had to cover our eyes. While we waited for more, we counted the spaces in-between thunderclaps, and then we listened as the rain tapped a steady beat on the roof. It was just enough to lull us to sleep. And all night long the sounds of summer played on.

The Sounds of Summer
Short Story
2005