how august goes

wa sun

Today’s projected high temperature is 33 degrees Celsius. Just to give Americans some context, 25 degrees is warm, 28 is annoying, 30 is a crime, and 33 degrees is homicidal. It’s one of the hottest days of the year. Dogs will go around with their tongues hanging from their mouths, cats will sprawl out lifelessly on floors, and pedestrians will stumble blindly forward, squinting as if an invisible band were slowly tightening itself around their foreheads. Pity the poor golfers, half of whom will end up as pastel-coloured heaps on the smooth green slopes.

And yet summer is over. Today’s heat is a last-minute rally by the losing team, a desperate move to pull a bit of dignity out the closing moments of a game with a foregone conclusion.

How do I know it? The wasps.

Where I live, wasps are pretty much their own season. Around mid-August, the wasp population explodes from tree hollows and the undersides of decks. For whatever reason their appearance coincides with the vanishing of the dragonflies, which is a lousy trade. Dragonflies are gorgeous metallic creatures that eat mosquitoes and cling to clotheslines in the heat of mid-day. Wasps are aggressive bastards that live to eat your food and inject poison into you at the slightest provocation. They are the harbingers of decadence, when summer starts feeding on its split overripe body, licking up its own juices as elm leaves begin to wilt and sour on the branch.

That’s how the warm seasons go on the prairies: mosquitoes bring in the spring; gold and cobalt dragonflies follow after the mosquitoes as summer gets underway; then a fortnight-long interlude of beetles falling into people’s beers; and finally the wasps, feeding on discarded fast food and the grasshopper-encrusted grilles of farmers’ trucks. At this point you want the cold weather to sweep in and freeze the little jerks in their tracks.