June, 1976, Indiana
On Indiana summer evenings, the fireflies begin their dance as dusk creeps over the landscape, reducing green to gray and black and brown. Their lights are yellow as sunlight or neon; they blink among the hedges and maneuver a few inches above the tall grass. There are five varieties of fireflies native to the Northern Indiana region. Each signals prospective mates with specific timing, and no four second interval firefly would approach a six second interval one.
On the same summer evenings, the mosquitoes whine, though only the female ones, hovering before landing on unsuspecting arms and ankles, draining as much as they can before either taking off, heavy and bloated with their sanguine plunder, or else are splattered and exploded by their victim when he or she notices not the sting of the needlelike proboscis being inserted, but the tickle of their feet among the fine, downy hair arms.
Other creatures come out later: soft-nosed rabbits and the tiny bats that flitter around lampposts, devouring the night insects swarming there. Possums drag their heavy bodies along, investigating garbage cans and quarreling with the raccoons come to plunder. There are even rats, in some places along the St. Joseph River, water rats that move through the green-brown water, searching among the slimy weeds that coat the bottom. But the fireflies are already there: they have marked the coming of the night, lighting as though protesting the approaching darkness.
Michigan Street crosses down from the state of Michigan, comes through Northern Indiana and splits one of its larger cities, South Bend, like a splayed bird. Corn fields and alfalfa lie further out but here the street slashes the city’s belly, unfolds layers like the dark verge of Notre Dame University, the struggling downtown, the unsavory brew further south of town as you headed down to the smaller towns: Lakeville, Lapaz, Plymouth. Far to the south it reaches Kokomo, later Indianapolis, then the nether region of the state, which hosted the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the twenties.
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