The Home Sick Eclipse Club

Photo by James Niland

Hot Dog Hot Dog Hot Diggity Dog!

I open my eyes.

Hot Dog Hot Dog Hot Diggity Dog!

I close them again.

Hot Dog Hot Dog Hot Diggity Dog!

I open my eyes. My hopes are dashed that I have been dreaming the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme song due to overexposure and ear worms, who, as we all know, can be real jerks.

Bling. Facebook Messenger. Bling. Facebook Messenger again.

Too many things are happening before caffeine. I open my tablet. There’s a message from my mom: Q is home sick today, so just keep an eye on her, OK?

Whether it’s an occupational hazard or not, I do read subtext into this that states: so for Pete’s sake, no day drinking and make sure you wear pants around the house!  

I stretch and get out of bed, making those sounds that began playing in the guttural section of my daily orchestra after I hit forty. Down the hall, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse wails it musical mantra and I poke my head in the bedroom. No Q. I am not worried. Were this my sister’s other parasitic offspring, I might say “hmm” and instantly begin looking at the back of milk cartons.

Despite the fact that Q is my 8 year old niece, she is more like a very short adult who woke up one day in a child’s body and is getting through childhood again until she can get back to the office and finish some reports. This is not to say she is boring, because she isn’t. She is a charming, lovely, curious, funny, and playful little girl, who happens to possess a temperament and wisdom I didn’t attain until I was in my twen…my thirt…my fort…. that I hope to attain sometime soon.

I round the corner into the kitchen and hear some zany action undertaken by the gang in Mickey’s Clubhouse.  Q is sitting at the table, working a saltine out of its boxy home and watching Donald Duck fly around in a hotdog.

“Hey,” I say.


“Grandmom said you were sick. Are you feeling OK?” I put my hand on her forehead, though it must be mentioned that I am not sure what I’m hoping to ascertain. In any event, the forehead is warm, but not hot.

“I’m fine. How are you feeling?”

This is a good question, and one whose pertinence is realized as fluorescent orange goo is fired through my nose at a violent speed. I groan, partially out of the discomfort of a head cold and partially because my hands and face are glued together by my own ectoplasm.

Q hands me a tissue. “Bless you.”

“Dank uuu.” I say, and then, “Do you need anything?”

Her face says: Me? Look at you! Her wise mouth says: “No thank you.”

“Let me know if you do, OK?”

Q’s mouth: “Sure.” Q’s face: Let me know if you do.

I toast my bagel and cut my grapefruit. Hot Dog Hot Dog Hot Diggity Dog! The Keurig pours my coffee. Hot Dog Hot Dog Hot Diggity Dog!

“So, I am going to get some work done. Just let me know if you need anything. OK?”

Her look suggests that she is trying to convey the fact that the downstairs bathroom, three feet away, connects an actual doctor’s office (i.e. my dad’s dental office) to our house, and, further, should she need anything, she would probably make her way through to there and request the assistance of a trained medical professional. But she is Q, so she smiles and says, “Thank you.”

“Oh there’s an eclipse later,” I say.

“Yeah, Grandmom said ‘no outside.’”

“Right…” I feel like clarifying: did she mean for both of us, or just you? but I don’t want to undermine my already shaky authority. “Well, you can hurt your eyes if you look at it.”

“Yeah, that’s what Grandmom said.”

The thing is, again, if this were my sister’s other walking partial DNA replica, this would not suffice. We wouldn’t bother telling him ‘no outside’ and would in fact just lock him in the basement and bury him under a hundred coats to lessen the chances of him doing permanent damage to his retinas just to spite us.

It wouldn’t have sufficed for me either. On the glorious days when I perfectly balanced an illness so as to avoid both school and the doctor’s office, my mother would leave me home in the genuine hopes that both I and it would be recognizable at the end of the day. To be fair, all I would do is read R.L Stine, watch horror movies, and eat crackers with grape jelly and cream cheese, but she was not wrong to be concerned.

If you are in North America or have eyes or ears, you know that there is a total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st. The last few weeks have been filled with eclipse hoopla as television and news shows are slotted with eclipse information, and the internet is blowing up with all things eclipse. I like to think that the Pagan community is going to have an eclipse shag fest and the Christian community is going to stand nearby shaking their heads and praying for their souls.

Extraordinarily prevalent in the eclipse hoopla has been the safety instructions and warnings. The gist of these warnings are obviously geared towards people not damaging their eyes. There are memes about the overwhelming warnings and people are already rolling their eyes (but not at the sun!). The other night in our local pub The Horne, one such segment came on the news, prompting a guy pulled his face out of a Bud Light long enough to ask: How fucken dumb do they think we are?

As if answering his own question, he then went on to thoughtfully discuss the media’s attack on Trump using a monosyllabic lexicon and “fuck” as a comma. I attached my mouth to my Miller High Life and my brain sent this message to him: that dumb, you jackass.

Still, eclipses mean the sky goes cool and dark, and, according to folklorist James Deutsch “the whole world changes in a way it’s not supposed to,” so, as you can imagine, many cultures have long given eclipses deep folkloric meaning. Some think it’s a prelude to an apocalypse, other cultures blame the blotting of the sun on an eternal bat or a celestial jaguar. Some cultures think we are being punished by the gods for our human errors and some others think an eclipse happens because the sun can no longer look at what’s happening in world history. So, considering recent events, perhaps the eclipse is directly addressing Mr. Bud Light’s (not so) rhetorical question.

Nevertheless, come later, Q and I will go for a walk to the local Revolutionary War cemetery, and get a Gatorade at the local shop, then we’ll make a sensible lunch of, as she says, “no hotdogs, please.” We’ll then sit on the porch, and at 2:44ish in the afternoon, the sky will get a spooky dark, the traffic will put its lights on and slow, and Q will say to me: “Uncle Damien, don’t do that; Grandmom said don’t look at the sky.”

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