Night is Familiar

by Kathleen Saville

Night is familiar, when it comes. The sweetness of early summer milkweed permeates the warm air as I sit reading on the porch. Chickadees and nuthatches murmur in their sleep, swaying gently on their night branches. The wind whispers through the old pine tree behind my house.

My neighborhood in this northeastern corner of Vermont is quiet at night. The only sounds I hear are the wildlife outside the porch screens. Coyotes are howling tonight down in the woods. One begins its song in an unmistakable coyote howl; the others join in. Dogs on both sides of the valley bark randomly in response. The smooth rising tones of the coyotes override the sharply punctuated bursts from the farm dogs.

Night is familiar, when it comes. There’s the unmistakable scratching of a mouse scurrying high above my head. I shift in my seat, re-cross my legs and try to ignore it. A stolen kernel from my popcorn bowl drops from the ceiling. I snap on the overhead light and throw my book down. With a forefinger, I push my glasses tight against the bridge of my nose and scan the ceiling for movement. There it is! Running along a ceiling beam is a long white-bellied mouse, its’ eyes black pinpoints above its twitching nose. I drum my fingers lightly on the arm of my chair wondering what to do.  I look back up and the mouse is gone.

Night is familiar, when it comes. The sky is cloudy and the air is damp and sweet. It’s raining softly as I head into the house.

No more wind this evening; just the whisper of an early summer night’s rain.