September 17? Something is wrong. The temperature has dropped to Halloween numbers.

What happened to Indian Summer? We love Indian Summer!

I ignore it. But She, whom we all suspect has a secret thermostat implanted in her arm, acts out a theatrical shiver and moves across the room.

“Don’t touch that,” I whispered sharply. “Why are you touching it?”

She stands, looking at the thermostat. She keeps adjusting her glasses, wipes them and puts them back on.

“I can look at it if I want to,” She whispers. “I have to learn how to do things in case something happens to you.”


I hate when she goes to the “In case something happens to you” line. At first it’s a laugh line, then one day it grows dark.

I force a smile. “Of course you can look at it. But stand over here and look.”

She pauses, one of her deadliest devices. It means she’s thinking. She replies.

“I can’t see it from over there.”

“It’s off,” I say softly. “You can’t see the numbers because it’s off.”

She pauses again. “Why can’t I see it?”


“Because it’s backlighted, and when it’s off, the numbers are invisible.”

Another pause.

“Why is it off?” She persists.

I knew I had to be patient. This is She who does the taxes, the books and the arcane bank stuff that I simply don’t understand. She is the patron saint of numbers. She could shut me down in a heart beat.

I spoke even more softly now.

She’s standing by the window and her arthritis leg is beginning to hurt.


“Because it’s only September, we’ve never turned it on until after Indian Summer.”

“Indian Summer was last week; you missed it.”

She makes her way to the L.L. Bean thermometer that sits outside the window, and jabs her finger at the glass.

“It says 56.”

“I’m trying to write here,” I say, in an even softer tone. But I can tell it won’t quiet her.

She sits. She’s rubbing both knees, and She wants me to see that.


“I don’t know how you can sit there and write when it’s only 54. Don’t your poor little fingers get cold?”

I stop and snap the lid of my laptop down. This is futile. She’s only going to keep this up until we talk about the agreement.

“OK, let’s talk about the agreement.”

We talk now about the last bill of winter, of $1,000. Oil was at a historic high then, and we tried to conserve. That was when she went to the big, expensive, white-hooded robe our son-in-law gave her for Christmas.

She only goes to the big, expensive, white-hooded robe when she feels seriously cold. She blames it on a thyroid problem.

Sure. It’s early autumn cold, but after 40 years, in Maine, I’ve adjusted to it.


You would think that someone like She — who was born and raised in Maine, went to college in Washington, D.C., and studied drama in New York City — would long have adjusted to cold.

The sun broke through the window.

“There it is,” she beams.


“Your Indian Summer.”

She wins again.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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