Only a T-Shirt in the Cold
(E. Persnit wanted more time at the telescope.)
I saw Persnit at the Mart's parking lot. As he says he doesn't
know anyone with money. He probably had gotten leftovers from
the snack place. Could be one or two day old stuff. From the look
on his face, I would have guessed 2-day.
He did say hello and kept on going. No doubt he was deep in project
work. As always. This one involved wearing less and less so that
he could, in the cold, spend more time at the telescope. The dome
of course is not heated. He knew full well of snowmobile suits
that could keep one warm. Otherwise it was bulky gear that one
had on and Persnit dreaded the time, it only had to be once, when
the bulk meant error. Something dropped, cracked, smashed, or
lost. Such suits heated him so well that he had to unzip here
and there to stay out of the fry zone. So if the cold is coming
He was doing with less and less clothes in the cold though he
couldn't control how cold it was going to be. Ideal would be to
approach his T-shirt end point, while holding the temp constant.
But as he was steadily removing clothes, the temperatures were
variable. Such is Nature.
I had caught him in the parking lot at just prior to swinging
into observational mode. It had not been that cold of late though
winter fog was forecast. The forecast could be wrong or in error
as to when the fog could come. So fortified by 2-day grub and
clad in a T-shirt, it was a go.
I learned later that he had developed a bad and sad case of the
shakes, shivers, later that day. But such is the limit on observing
time here locally since the weather is rarely fine; that he went
to the observatory walking a zig-zag course, such was the impact
of the Fahrenheit on his T-shirt-covered form. He had brought
along some grog in a thermos to sustain himself during the long
night. In the course of the observing session which was of nil
duration since thick fog soon rolled in, Persnit dropped an eyepiece.
He caught it before it hit the concrete floor but banged his head
on the declination axis as he dove to hold the eyepiece again
before it hit the floor.
Then he slopped the grog onto his hand as he attempted a drink.
That hand, cold affected, became plastered to the scope near the
finder. He painfully pulled the hand, finger by finger, from the
steely-cold scope. Then, too, he was shaking so much that a glancing
blow by his waist against the instrument bench turned on the intense
flashlight that he kept to ward off varmints about the dome. Generally
this flashlight was in a belt on his midsection. The light was
visible for miles. He got a full dose of the light into his eyes.
That did it. Shivers, shakes, fog, cold, and then no night vision.
He made it over the barbed wire on the far side of the Interstate.
He caught his pants in the going-over and it switched on his flashlight.
He now had the flashlight in a back pocket for the trek home.
The light zigged and zagged as he walked, shaken this way and
that by his fever.
He heard no one coming in the fog. Really couldn't see anyone.
But then he had always had excellent hearing. Once across the
Interstate he began to ascend the slope by the massive gray culvert
that bordered the Interstate. He grasped at frozen weeds to pull
him upward. The shivers pitched him forward and backward. The
weeds helped on the reverse. Slipping and sliding he went on the
icy and slushy ground. Cold fog, very dense. Persnit was usually
quite lucid but the fever got his words in front of what they
should have been behind as he muttered, mumbled, and cursed his
way up the slope.
Then there was that car. He heard a car coming along the Interstate.
A regular damn fool to be driving in this fog. Persnit thought
he knew the slope well enough but he was only sure which way was
up. The car was going at a fast rate. Far too fast for the fog.
Persnit nearly turned to see if the car would hit the culvert.
It was the big threat there and then. he thought he could see
some sparks fly, judge visual acuity in such conditions. But then
he felt that to be ghoulish and he would be a witness and lose
observing time. So if anything, he would hear it. On he trudged,
the light shining out of his back pocket, blasting light away
every which way. He wasn't far from his shack once he topped the
slope. No one wanted to live out in the open by the Interstate.
Well officer, it's like this, sorry about the flowers in the
circle at the hospital flagpole. The wife being in a family way.
And the fog so bad and what with those slippery spots we already
had slid on, I couldn't slow much - wife, was moaning so and no
braking, afraid we be in the ditch and I wouldn't make it to the
hospital - a boy, another mouth to feed. Anyway I figured we would
soon be in the close presence of him that did the Creation cause
I know there was a culvert thereabouts. Off on the right. Then
the fog got real bad. It was looking bad, too. Then I saw it.
A light. Someone was signaling - real vigorous too, that light
was jostling, bouncing, waving all over the place. That guy was
frantic. I figured I was then close to the culvert so I steered
hard left. I saw something big go whooshing by on my right. A
big thing, gray, suddenly in the passenger window next to my wife.
I floored it. And here we are. Were those geraniums I ran over?