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Only a T-Shirt in the Cold
(E. Persnit wanted more time at the telescope.)

I saw Persnit at the Mart's parking lot. As he says he doesn't know anyone with money. He probably had gotten leftovers from the snack place. Could be one or two day old stuff. From the look on his face, I would have guessed 2-day.

He did say hello and kept on going. No doubt he was deep in project work. As always. This one involved wearing less and less so that he could, in the cold, spend more time at the telescope. The dome of course is not heated. He knew full well of snowmobile suits that could keep one warm. Otherwise it was bulky gear that one had on and Persnit dreaded the time, it only had to be once, when the bulk meant error. Something dropped, cracked, smashed, or lost. Such suits heated him so well that he had to unzip here and there to stay out of the fry zone. So if the cold is coming in anyway…

He was doing with less and less clothes in the cold though he couldn't control how cold it was going to be. Ideal would be to approach his T-shirt end point, while holding the temp constant. But as he was steadily removing clothes, the temperatures were variable. Such is Nature.

I had caught him in the parking lot at just prior to swinging into observational mode. It had not been that cold of late though winter fog was forecast. The forecast could be wrong or in error as to when the fog could come. So fortified by 2-day grub and clad in a T-shirt, it was a go.

I learned later that he had developed a bad and sad case of the shakes, shivers, later that day. But such is the limit on observing time here locally since the weather is rarely fine; that he went to the observatory walking a zig-zag course, such was the impact of the Fahrenheit on his T-shirt-covered form. He had brought along some grog in a thermos to sustain himself during the long night. In the course of the observing session which was of nil duration since thick fog soon rolled in, Persnit dropped an eyepiece. He caught it before it hit the concrete floor but banged his head on the declination axis as he dove to hold the eyepiece again before it hit the floor.

Then he slopped the grog onto his hand as he attempted a drink. That hand, cold affected, became plastered to the scope near the finder. He painfully pulled the hand, finger by finger, from the steely-cold scope. Then, too, he was shaking so much that a glancing blow by his waist against the instrument bench turned on the intense flashlight that he kept to ward off varmints about the dome. Generally this flashlight was in a belt on his midsection. The light was visible for miles. He got a full dose of the light into his eyes.

That did it. Shivers, shakes, fog, cold, and then no night vision. He made it over the barbed wire on the far side of the Interstate. He caught his pants in the going-over and it switched on his flashlight. He now had the flashlight in a back pocket for the trek home. The light zigged and zagged as he walked, shaken this way and that by his fever.

He heard no one coming in the fog. Really couldn't see anyone. But then he had always had excellent hearing. Once across the Interstate he began to ascend the slope by the massive gray culvert that bordered the Interstate. He grasped at frozen weeds to pull him upward. The shivers pitched him forward and backward. The weeds helped on the reverse. Slipping and sliding he went on the icy and slushy ground. Cold fog, very dense. Persnit was usually quite lucid but the fever got his words in front of what they should have been behind as he muttered, mumbled, and cursed his way up the slope.

Then there was that car. He heard a car coming along the Interstate. A regular damn fool to be driving in this fog. Persnit thought he knew the slope well enough but he was only sure which way was up. The car was going at a fast rate. Far too fast for the fog.

Persnit nearly turned to see if the car would hit the culvert. It was the big threat there and then. he thought he could see some sparks fly, judge visual acuity in such conditions. But then he felt that to be ghoulish and he would be a witness and lose observing time. So if anything, he would hear it. On he trudged, the light shining out of his back pocket, blasting light away every which way. He wasn't far from his shack once he topped the slope. No one wanted to live out in the open by the Interstate.

Well officer, it's like this, sorry about the flowers in the circle at the hospital flagpole. The wife being in a family way. And the fog so bad and what with those slippery spots we already had slid on, I couldn't slow much - wife, was moaning so and no braking, afraid we be in the ditch and I wouldn't make it to the hospital - a boy, another mouth to feed. Anyway I figured we would soon be in the close presence of him that did the Creation cause I know there was a culvert thereabouts. Off on the right. Then the fog got real bad. It was looking bad, too. Then I saw it. A light. Someone was signaling - real vigorous too, that light was jostling, bouncing, waving all over the place. That guy was frantic. I figured I was then close to the culvert so I steered hard left. I saw something big go whooshing by on my right. A big thing, gray, suddenly in the passenger window next to my wife. I floored it. And here we are. Were those geraniums I ran over?

 

   

 

   
 

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