The noon whistle on the hot southern landscape
It’s a small Kentucky town, everyone is hiding from the heat, the dogs hiding under trees, the cats under porches. It’s summer in the small town, a kid on a bicycle , a pickup truck crawling along, almost too hot for it, or the driver’s pedal foot.
Air conditioners droning here and there, fans in windows, a radio playing somewhere in someone’s backyard, forgotten…
…when the noon whistle breaks in, announcing a halt to work, start of the mid-day meal, even the dogs and cats seem to steer home, instinct telling them food may be in the offing soon.
Noon, and it’s too hot even for the sno-cone seller, her booth shuttered, the ice no doubt melting in the blazing heat. The second-hand shops all closed, all three of them on Main Street. A few people ambling in and out of the supermarket, in front of which the cars park at an angle, and the “ICE” bin with the lock open, hanging there. No one would steal ice in a small town like this. Two impressively modern soda machines stand next to the ice bin. And next to that an old-fashioned bench, where an old-timer sits observing the slow motion on the street.
The noon whistle, gradually lagging, its clock mechanism losing three seconds a day, until it’s seven minutes late, and finally someone comments and after a week or two, the whistle-keeper corrects it, grudgingly. Why would anyone care about the accuracy he imagines. It’s an approximation, like reading time on a sun-dial. In a town of a thousand the noon whistle, a nice anachronism, let it be late…