Mel walked joyously up over the little hill, and struck out across the field to her left. It was a glorious spring day, the sun was shining, robins and sparrows and blue jays were singing happily, and butterflies danced in the morning breeze. She was headed to her special spot, where she would be alone and eat her breakfast in peace. The little basket at her side held an old, plaid blanket, a good book, warm cinnamon buns, slices of strawberries and melons, and fresh, hot coffee in a thermos. It was time for her to greet spring the way she always had, with a breakfast under the old yew tree as soon as it was warm and dry enough.
Soon the tree was in sight, with a marvelous view of the little town of Verna before it. No one ever came up here. It was always deserted, but she enjoyed the lack of company. She spread the blanket on the ground, put out the food, and flopped down to read her book, slowly munching on the cinnamon rolls and the fruit, and sipping the coffee.
Time passed. The sun was very warm, and it felt good on her shoulders after winter’s cold. She put her book down and stretched, thinking how perfect this morning had been. “I wish it could always be spring!” she said, out loud. Suddenly she heard a loud crack from deep underground, beneath the tree, which startled her. She looked around curiously for the cause of the noise, but finding none, she picked up her book again, and soon was lost in its tale.
The spring months passed, and before long it was mid-June. Children were let out of school and ran playing around the town. The weather continued to be perfect: the temperatures were not too hot our too cold, the rain fell in early morning or at night, and everyone remarked at how long their daffodils, tulips, and lilacs were lasting. Two more weeks went by. It was now almost July, and people’s daffodils were still blooming. The were gorgeous things, to be sure, but there was some muttering going on, a wave of disbelief and worry was creeping into conversations. Soon it was July.
Mel walked into the post office, to find little knots of people talking about the weather.
“It’s not right, I tell ya. My apple trees still have their blossoms on ‘em, but not a single apple. It’s just not right!” said Jake, who drove the school bus.
“Yeah, an’ the water in the lake certainly hasn’t warmed up a bit. It oughta be gettin’ warmer! I’m thinking the Beach Committee is gonna hafta put some serious thought into closing the beach for the summer, til it warms up anyway,” said Marvin.
“It’s just plain weird. I mean, it’s not global warming, exactly. It’s just staying the same!” stated Amelia. “We should maybe have a special town meeting to see what everyone thinks it is.”
The was general agreement about this. The knots of people had convened in the middle of the post office floor, which was where Mel happened to be. As she was on the library committee, and thus was the closest thing to an actual government representative, they waited for her to say she would start the ball rolling.
“Well,” she said hesitantly, “if you really think that we should, well, I guess I can ask Phil about it ...”
Everyone thought they really should, so Mel went to Phil, the town manager, and got permission for a special town meeting. Phil thought they should get some research about weather, and Mel was deputized to find what she could about weather systems that could explain the spring-like weather. It seemed that it only went as far as the town line, however. Every town around Verna was gearing up for summer just fine, but Verna was obstinately holding onto its forsythia and its forget-me-nots.
The news leaked to a few newspapers, people posted pictures of Verna’s profusion of spring blooms on Twitter and Facebook, and soon the Associated Press was in on it. Vans with various news logos pulled up at the two local bed and breakfasts, bristling with antennae. Several doctors of biology and weather functions were seen taking measurements of the air, the water, and photographing the local fauna. The population of the town grew astronomically, and while it was nice at first to have lots of new customers in the stores, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts, after a while no one could keep it up. The town meeting was scheduled for two week’s from Independence Day.
They held the town meeting. Dr. Martin, an expert in weather, said a lot of things, but in the end, he had no idea why it seemed so spring-like. Dr. Marcos, an expert in horticulture, was amazed at everything, but she couldn’t explain it either. A lot of people got up to say it just wasn’t right, but they had no explanation for it. There were lots of questions, but no answers.
The National Guard kept people out of town now; it had a wall around it, high piles of sand bags and chicken wire, with men with guns pointed at nothing in particular. It was the ultimate tourist attraction ... except you couldn’t get in unless you lived there. The residents of town were issued special passes so they could get in and out of town, and that helped, but they felt increasingly like prisoners. Whenever they left town, people followed them everywhere. Invitations to go on Leno, the Today show, Fox were a dime a dozen, and some took them up on it. Many didn’t. There was a feeling that there was something wrong about the whole thing.
Mel went up to the yew tree regularly to enjoy the air and the sunshine and the birds chirping. Then it got to be autumn, and it was suddenly cloying. She enjoyed the spring, but suddenly she found herself wishing for a little nip in the air. She baked cookies more often, and looked in vain for a bit of fall colors coming into the leaves. She even wished for a snowflake or two. It was hard getting into the spirit of Christmas by humming a carol while apple blossoms decked the branches of nearby trees and fish swam in streams that were clear of ice.
Soon it had been a year. It was spring again, real spring. Mel wished she would never see a spring day again. She was tired of buds and blossoms and warm, but never hot or chilly or cold, weather. She packed a basket with sandwiches and apples and a thermos of tea and went back up to the yew tree. She always wondered why no one ever was seen up there; it seemed to be the perfect spot for a picnic. She spread her blanket and put out the thermos and apples and sandwiches, and plopped down. She hadn’t brought a book to read. She drew her legs up under her and closed her eyes.
Tears welled up and fell uncontrollably. “I wish it would stop!” she said. “I wish we could go back to being normal!”
There was a shift, a space that hung for a moment in time, and then resumed. She felt it more than anything. It felt right. Mel stood up and ran, down into town. The guards were gone ... no wall surrounded the town, no vans with bristling antennae lurked about parking lots anywhere.
“Mel! You like you’ve seen a ghost! What’s the matter?” Marvin asked, after she bumped into him, spilling his mail on the ground.
“Oh....ummm, nothing. I was just up on the hill, having a picnic under the yew tree ... nothing’s wrong,” she said, and repeated it because it sounded so good to say it, “Absolutely nothing is wrong!”
Marvin watched her run off in another direction. “That girl’s a bit addled by the nice spring weather we’re having.” He took his cap off and scratched his head. “Everyone knows there’s no yew tree in town.”