I couldn't sleep last night, not for a long time.
It was out first really hot night, and although we keep the windows open at night in the summer so it's not so bad, I'm really not used to it. It seems like just last week I was wearing my long johns and hat to bed and here I was lying on top of the covers in my boxers. I'd have taken those off, too, but I wanted the door open for more of a breeze. Everything was just too sticky.
Finally I got up and stood out on my balcony for a while and watched the lightening bugs out on the lawn. It was pretty dark out there, I could hardly even see the Enchanted Forest because the clouds covered the moon, but every few minutes I saw a flash of distant lightening. There was no thunder.
After a bit I heard a tin whistle from below me on the porch. I assumed it was Charlie, but thought it odd for him to go out to the porch to play, instead of from his balcony. I threw on some actual shorts over my boxers and went downstairs to find out what was going on.
But it wasn't Charlie playing on the porch, it was Jim.
Jim started the same year I did, but he's graduating this year. I know him to say hi to, and we've had a couple classes together, but we've never really hung out much. He's one of Allen's students, and, like Ollie, has been studying reason as part of a personal growth path. But he and Ollie don't get along very well--in part because they have that in common. They both seem to think that reason is a process that, properly applied, should always result in the same, correct answer, the same way one plus two is always three. That Ollie's reason has confirmed his faith as a Baptist and Jim's reason has lead him to almost militant atheism seems to irritate both of them.
I never meant to avoid Jim, I've always liked and respected him, but I've spent a lot of time hanging out with Ollie and that meant not hanging out with Jim--simply because the two were rarely together.
Not that I could recognize Jim in the dark, but he was wearing a glow-in-the-dark wristwatch, which Charlie would never do. I waited until he got to a convenient stopping-place and spoke to me and then I recognized his voice.
"Who's there?" he asked, in a friendly way.
"Daniel," I told him.
"Did I wake you? Here, sit down, if you want."
"I couldn't sleep. I didn't know you could play. You're good." I sat down near him.
"Thanks. Yeah, Kit's been teaching me. It's my art, you know."
"No, I didn't know. And I didn't know Kit could play tin whistle, either. I thought only Charlie did."
"Kit can play anything," he said, which is true, as far as I can tell. She can learn a new instrument in just a couple of minutes by playing around with it and seeing how it relates to the instruments she knows. I've seen her do it. "I got the idea from Charlie," Jim continued, "but I asked Kit to teach me. Charlie's not a master in music."
"That's true, he's not."
"Hey, heat-lighting! It's been going every couple of minutes."
"I know. I was watching it from my balcony. Except did you know there's no such thing as heat-lighting?"
"There isn't? Then what's that?"
"Regular lightening," I told him. "It's just too far away to hear."
He thought about that for a moment.
"Oh, ok, duh," he concluded. "That explains a lot."
"Didn't you get a degree in physics?" I asked, giving him a hard time. It's true, by the way, but unlike a lot of people with a prior degree he couldn't get out of most of his classes here. I guess there isn't a lot of material in common between a liberal arts degree (which this is, technically) and a BS in physics. And, evidently, he hadn't studied the physics of weather much.
"I just hadn't thought about it," he admitted, embarrassed. "Man is not a reasoning beast by nature, we have to work at it. And I am a man."
"Hey, will you teach me to play a little?" I asked. "I've tried, but I can't even get notes to come out."
"Sure. You just need a little more breath-control. I could show you the basics now, but I'm afraid we'll wake everybody up."
"Let's go out to the Edge of the World," I suggested.
"Sure, but it's dark. I have to go upstairs and get my flashlight."
"No, you don't. I'll guide you."
"You have your flashlight?"
"No. I don't need one. Neither do you. Come on!"
And so we went out to the Edge of the World and I made sure he didn't get lost or fall over anything on the way. Then he taught me how to control my breath so the whistle didn't squeak or squeal and he showed me how to play the instrument's sixteen-note scale. I practiced that a few times and then we watched the lightening for a while and then I think we must both have fallen asleep because I don't remember anything else until morning.
"Dude, you're barefoot?" were the first words I heard upon waking and it took me a few seconds to work out where I was and why. I looked down at my feet. My toes wiggled. I was itchy all over from lying in the grass without my shirt.
"Yeah, so?" I asked.
"You can walk around in the dark without flashlight or even shoes? That's pretty impressive."
"Not really. I just use my feet to feel my way. I've been out here a million times before, I'm used to it. And there's nothing sharp to step on this year." Last year there were a couple of exotic thistle rosettes until Charlie rooted them out. They were nasty to step on.
"Were you so blase about those skills when you first saw Charlie use them?"
"How did you know I learned it from him? I didn't think you knew him well enough to know what he can do."
"Men are capable of learning reason: I am a man."