Any Texan knows that good ol’ T. S. Eliot was wrong: April is not the cruelest month around here. It’s September, of course—that period when weaklings in other parts of the country, recovering from stultifying, suspiciously globally warmed summers, are beginning to throw on sweaters, plant fall gardens, chop firewood, and send the kids back to school after, not before, Labor Day. Here, instead of a break in the heat, September brings more of the same—the last of that very long march that begins in May and stretches, during the worst of times, all the way to Halloween. The best you can say about the month is that it is a true test of Texanness: After weeks of relentless heat, the fire ants seem hungrier, the mosquitoes thirstier, the temperatures and the sun so murderous that a trip across a glary grocery store parking lot is like a trek across the Sahara, without water. People snap at one another from sheer heat exhaustion and cannot bear to cook anything that requires boiling, broiling, baking, or even grilling. Swimming in the backyard pool is equivalent to soaking in a hot bath, which no one considers either. Then it gets really serious: The elderly swelter behind locked doors and barred windows, prisoners of depleted air-conditioning funds. Some kid—usually more than one—inevitably perishes at morning football practice. We roast, awaiting the first cool front like penitents awaiting a miracle. And thank God, one always shows up—in October.
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