The weather these last few weeks, here in the Jacksons’ neck of the woods, has been like the voters every American news channel has dragged kicking and screaming into their newsrooms for live, on-air interviews. Undecided. Not warm certainly, but not really cold either. Rainy sometimes, but not really raining. Sometimes a few snowflakes have drifted down noncommittally from ambiguous clouds but invariably they have turned to water once they landed, sometimes immediately, sometimes not for a few minutes, sometimes not till morning.
Don’t get complacent. The weather, just like the voters did, will one day make up its mind, and it’ll be a cold day in November when that happens. Or if we’re lucky, a cold day in December. Or if we’re unlucky, a cold day in January, because if the weather doesn’t make up its mind till January, then global warming may be an even bigger problem than we think it is.
“It’s so depressingly grey out there,” said Rose Jackson, turning away from the dining room window and walking back across the room to the table where her husband Andrew and daughter Jennifer sat. “I almost wish it would snow.”
“Well darling, I have really good news for you,” said Andrew. “It will.”
“Yes, but when? And what do I do till it does?” said Rose. “I would like to be my usual cheerful self, but it’s so hard at this time of year.”
“You need a happy light,” said Jennifer.
Rose paused. “A what?” she said.
“A happy light,” said Jennifer. “It’s a UV light you sit under for a few minutes a day that gives you… I don’t know, a full spectrum of something or other, which is supposed to help if you suffer from seasonal something something. Miss O’Brien told us about it in health class but I wasn’t really listening.”
“What you really need, Rose,” said Andrew, “is to spend the winter in Hawaii. But since that ain’t gonna happen, how about I buy you a happy light?” He turned to Jennifer. “Did Miss O’Brien happen to mention how much they cost?”
“I have no idea,” said Jennifer. “I think you can get different sizes and price ranges.”
“Just get me a cheap one,” said Rose. “If you pay too much then you’ll just be depressed about spending too much money.”
“But if I get a cheap one,” said Andrew, “then your happiness will be shallow and superficial.”
“Geez,” said Jennifer. “Just go to Hawaii for the winter. Both of you. Then we’ll all be happy.”
Rose laughed. “Oh yeah,” she said. “And leave you here alone to look after the place? Maybe not.”
“I wouldn’t be alone,” said Jennifer. “I mean Randy lives, like, 15 feet away.”
“A hundred and fifteen actually,” said Andrew.
“Whatever,” said Jennifer. “Randy and Jackie could just move in here while you were gone. They’d probably love it.”
There was a brief silence.
“Omigod,” said Rose. “We could totally do it.”
“Absolutely,” said Jennifer. “You could and you should.”
“We totally could,” said Andrew, “but we totally can’t.”
“Why not?” said Rose. “Why can’t we?”
“Simple,” said Andrew. “We’re sheep farmers. Sheep farmers don’t go to Hawaii for the winter. Sheep farmers stay home in winter so they can hunker down in the snow with their flock and fight off wolves and cougars with pointed sticks and burning torches.”
“I’m pretty good with pointed sticks,” said Jennifer. “I almost took Brady’s eye out with one once.”
“True enough,” said Andrew, “but you know you’re not allowed to play with fire.”
“Randy can do the burning torches and I’ll do the pointy stick,” said Jennifer, “and the sheep will thrive and grow massive amounts of wool and gestate like crazy and you two will be sunburned and happy in your tropical paradise.”
There was another pause. Andrew and Rose looked at each other.
“You know the real reason we can’t go, don’t you dear?” said Andrew.
“Because,” said Andrew, “our nearly 18-year-old daughter is way too eager to get rid of us, which is making the UM light in my head go off.”
“UM light? What’s a UM light?” Jennifer wanted to know.
“It’s an Ulterior Motive light,” said Andrew. “Parents have them in their heads and they come on when kids make suggestions that may be ulteriorally motivated.”
“First of all,” said Jennifer, “ulteriorally isn’t a word, and secondly, you wouldn’t have room in your head for a light, what with all the rocks and whatnot.”
“Well something is flashing in there,” said Andrew. “So either way, we can’t go to Hawaii till I get that checked out.”
Jennifer sighed. “Failed again,” she said. “Well, you can’t say I didn’t try.”
“Well I’d say you succeeded,” said Rose, grinning. “I feel a whole lot better!”