Marching band drummers in parade at Texas Stat...
Marching band drummers in parade at Texas State Fair 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Independence Day. Her dad had woken her up at 9 for the parade, when the Texas air was already humid enough to cut into thick slabs. Now they were sitting on the curb, the backs of their necks sticky with sunscreen, watching the high school band march by. Screeching as it turned the corner, the first float of the day came into view—a giant, papier-mache slice of watermelon, complete with seeds as big as her head. Representatives from the Chamber of Commerce stood circled on the platform around it, waving slowly. She was young enough to wave back.


She ran, giggling, her white sandals making indentations in the wet grass.

“Wait uppppppp!” called her little brother, his chubby legs frantically propelling him behind her. But she didn’t listen. She reached the crest of the hill at the exact moment that the first one broke the sky open, bright streaks cascading down like a weeping willow’s branches and then nothing.

Impulsively, she threw herself down onto the grass, crossing her arms behind her head and looking towards the stars. Now one changing from green to yellow. The ghostly remains of the first appeared for a moment in its light.
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In San Antonio, in her four-year-old conception of the passage of time, it seemed there was always a parade happening. Today it was Cinco de Mayo and she sat on her father’s shoulders, watching the floats and marching bands and women in beautiful elaborate Mexican dresses wind their way down the street. Everything was bright and noisy and terribly exciting. When the sky filled up with thunderclouds and then ripped open, it did not make her any less happy. “It’s…RAINING on our PARADE!” her dad told her, laughing, and she laughed too, not knowing the expression but liking it anyway.


The bonfire was blazing madly now, come into its own as a living, breathing, craving thing, sending tongues of urgent and brilliantly-colored flame upward into the heavy air. They gathered more closely around it, everyone’s skin shiny with sweat. Someone was beating on a drum, and the fire seemed to pulse to its rhythm. A few of them began to sing. Their bodies moved of their own volition. The day was never going to end, there would be no night, there was only this, there was only the gulping fire and their dancing bodies, fusing together, welcoming the summer.