One young fox pads across the village road, unnerved by a squabble of magpies. Heat is thickening. Flowers reach unbearable brightness. Dark fleas show on Dog's white fur. Back at the house six excessively purchased bags of cheap salt sit on the kitchen worktop. It is hot work to salt the carpets. It takes one bag of salt to cover all of them. The other five sit, over prepared, lined up, a show of strength. A couple of hours wait is recommended, while the fine mineral dehydrates insect eggs. Fleas are poor swimmers, too, they thrive in the moderate zone: not immersion, not desiccation. It makes the river obvious.
Dog hobbles (infected paw: she is having an unlucky week) over the dry grass. The crop field is unstirred. All the wheat stands as though it would crumble to dust: we dare not touch it. But the water is close: cold, clear, edged in light that flows up, that plays over the broad tree trunks, over the tumbling weeds. Wading in happens fast. Heat calms, damsel flies spark blue, little birds spin so close we could breathe one in if we timed it right. Thoughts that were crammed in open up like leaves of fine tea in a glazed pot.
Tired still from a weekend of Junior Camp hilarity, triumph, mud and eggy bread. Campfire tales were gobbled up: the illustrations need some finish, but it would be simple enough to make an ebook of them. Next year perhaps a tale about the motives of parents who ply their children with terrible sweets…
Boy is far away, being tested: three days of interview and tests to see if he can follow his dream. Yesterday a text to say he had thrown up whilst on a run: the heat, too much food, not enough water. A mother worries, of course! He has a solid back up plan. But he could do it, we know he could.
Next week we will all be running. A week of camping and training and hoping that the housesitters don't forget to water the plants. Or feed our limpy Dog. Or get bit by fleas. We should ring the vet.
Fleas, be fish food!
Float, thought-free, eyes skyward.
Later, when the house is unsalted by borrowed vacuum, when Dog is lavender bathed and oddly lively, when the river wet clothes blow dry on the line: the phone rings. It's Boy.
'I passed,' he says.
His mother is looking out of the window. The air seems watery, lit up.