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Paul Turner: Doomsday secret didn’t spoil summer for the neighborhood kids

Mr. Kirsch asked if we could keep a secret.

We assured him that we could.

That’s when he told us, a motley assortment of neighborhood kids, the awful truth.

The Earth had become unhinged from its orbit and was wobbling ever closer to the sun. Soon it would be curtains for moose and squirrel, and for the gullible children on my boyhood block.

Those in the know were supposed to keep it a secret, you see. People might panic. But he thought we ought to be told, so we could get our affairs in order. Before, well, you know.

This was alarming news. But it did sort of explain why the days kept getting longer and the weather kept getting hotter. As I said, we were young.

I sometimes think of Mr. Kirsch as we approach the summer solstice and experience the maximum hours of sunlight. Would little kids fall for his far-fetched story today?

Probably not. Some young Brainiac would go online and find out the real explanation for the changing seasons.

Eventually we realized our fabulist neighbor was borrowing the plot line from an episode of “The Twilight Zone” called “The Midnight Sun.”

It first aired in November 1961. But it was about this time of year when Mr. Kirsch told us the end was nigh. It might have been 1962 or 1963 by then. Maybe later.

A long time ago, in any event. One reason I remember is the fact I’ve told that story of Doomsday Comes to Adams Street a number of times over the years.

I can’t swear to it. But I think one of our chief reactions was resentment of the fact this was happening right after the school year ended.

Summer vacation had just started and now this? We’re going to perish? I hadn’t made a dent in my tree fort to-do list and it’s the End Times already? Hardly seemed fair.

According to Mr. Kirsch, our planet was about to go to blazes, so to speak.

That did not prove to be the case, of course. There had been no catastrophic orbital shift. No lurching toward fiery oblivion. He was pulling our little legs.

Still, there’s something about these longest days. Some kind of seasonal magic.

You know that sensation when you’re driving long distances at night and feel like you can go on forever because the sun never sets? Well, almost never sets. Perhaps if you just keep going, you’ll arrive at that point where summer fulfills its unspoken promise of rediscovery and renewal.

Or maybe you’re just out taking a walk in your neighborhood after dinner. You see it all – dogs, strollers, hand-holding couples, kids operating various wheeled conveyances. And not the faintest hint of darkness in the sky. It’s like an extra-strength dose of community.

I’m glad Mr. Kirsch was just kidding. I’m glad all that didn’t get snuffed out by some solar system screw-up.

In that “Twilight Zone” episode, it actually turned out that the Earth was hurtling farther and farther from the sun. (The opposite scenario had all been one character’s feverish dream.)

Just as an aside, I might point out that we in Spokane already know how the populace would react to the advent of an icy doom. We get a preview thanks to some of our neighbors and co-workers every time there’s a few inches of snow.

Oh, the humanity.

So I guess if anyone around here wanted to play Mr. Kirsch’s role, aiming your performance to coincide with the winter solstice could be the best bet. You would not have to restrict your audience to children.

A fair number of winter-hating adults in Spokane might believe you.

Is this an Inland Northwest thing?

My wife and I are friends with a couple who live on a farm. They stopped by for a visit over the weekend.

We got to talking about traffic noise. When they are at home, they hear none. Whereas we hear a fair amount, though we mostly tune it out.

But it made me wonder. We’ve been down to their farm though we have never spent the night. But if we did stay over, would the quiet prove unnerving?

And if they stayed overnight with us, would the fire trucks, airliners, trains and what-not keep them from resting?

Of course, as I have noted in the past, one of my neighbors has chickens. So it wouldn’t all be unfamiliar sounds for our farm friends.

End note

I can’t decide if people in Spokane complaining about e-scooters is a good thing or a bad thing.

Maybe it is good because it’s a break from the usual complaining about cyclists. But who likes being ignored? As a bike rider, part of me gets a perverse kick out of the usual gripes about cyclists. I’ve been hearing it so long I almost wonder if I would miss it if it went away for good.

Paul Turner can be reached at srpaulturner@gmail.com.