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Maxed Out

The Dog Days bear fruit



By G.D. Maxwell

The Dog Days of summer are upon Smilin’ Dog Manor. With empathy to my parents – who live in air-conditioned exile near Phoenix where the only tolerable time of year is any month ending in ’ebruary – the days have been stinkin’ hot. Climbing into the low 30s, they’ve finally warmed the emerald waters of Sulfuric Lake to the point where it offers blessed relief as opposed to a case of shrinkage requiring surgical intervention to reinflate.

Dog Days are called Dog Days because some bored shepherd in ancient times – even before golden oldies rock ’n’ roll – had hallucinations after eating mutton and wild mushrooms and thought the stars dancing in the night sky looked like a dog. Actually, he thought they looked like God, or a god, this being the time of polytheism, but like most shepherds, the one who came up with the dog idea and posted it to his very popular blog, was dyslexic. No, I’m being serious here.

To make a short story long, having connected the dots of all the stars in heaven and run out of names, the ancient shepherd started creating constellations in the likeness of ones he’d already named, kind of like Hollywood does with movies. Hence we have two bears, two fish, a lion and a ram you can’t really tell apart unless someone points it out to you and even then, it’s a stretch.

And we have two dogs, Big Dog and Little Dog.

The brightest star in Big Dog, like all the other stars in the sky, moves around the Earth in a fixed pattern. It just so happens, this particular bright star is the brightest star there is. Well, this smart shepherd, being an insomniac, discovered the bright Big Dog star moved in such a way that it rose and set with the sun during the hottest part of the year. Coincidence? He thought not.

Without so much as a supercomputer, he decided it was the added heat from the Big Dog star, coupled with the heat of the sun – which he correctly postulated was actually a great ball of fire, not a star at all – which made things so stinkin’ hot during that part of the summer heretofore referred to as Stinkin’ Hot Days. When his theory came to the attention of the Ancient Authorities, he was, of course, tried for heresy and staked out on an anthill in the desert until there was nothing left but his bones. Everyone knew it was only the Great Balls of Fire the gods threw across the sky every day that made the Earth hot, not the little lights in the night sky. The closer the Great Balls came to Earth, the hotter things got. Clearly, the Earth would have been hit long ago and burnt to a cinder had it not been for the continuing virgin sacrifices to Specs the myopic god of Double Vision. Silly, silly shepherd.