The past few months here in Milledgeville, Georgia, have been unseasonably warm, even for this part of the world. I’ve noticed two immediate results. One is a bumper crop of enormous flying German cockroaches (“palmetto bugs”) that claim dominion over downtown sidewalks from dusk til dawn. The other is that the towering purpled rainclouds that normally begin to rear on humid June afternoons have already begun piling up daily, in early May.
Last Friday evening I, along with fellow Tropologist Stephan McCormick, was conferred with my MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia College & State University—“Georgia’s Public Liberal Arts University.” Temperatures topped 90 that afternoon, and at 6:30, while we waited in black cap-and-gown to file onto the front lawn of campus, the roaches ran around my flip flops, and the clouds piled up, and it rained.
At the head of our line was a three-star general. For the graduate students’ commencement, Georgia’s Public Liberal Arts University had brought in Lieutenant General Charles Stenner, commander of the United States Air Force Reserve, to deliver the keynote. He didn’t seem concerned about the weather, and sure enough, we soon followed him and filed onto the lawn.
Introducing the general, our interim president said they’d been worried about what the weather would do, whether they should cancel, “Until we realized we had a pilot among us—” <look to general; pause for laughter> “—who took one look at the radar and said this storm would break up in no time.” The president of Georgia’s Public Liberal Arts University turned back to the crowd and went on to say, “And I can say from personal experience that I know the comfort of calling in an A-4 Warthog support airstrike in the heat of battle.”
The general took to the podium. He gripped it with both hands. The clouds had cleared, and the light rebounding around the sky above him was post-rain sunset golden. And he smiled and basked in the weather he’d known was there all along. And he told us, in a clipped yet booming way, to use our creative writing degrees, our novels and stories and poems, to further the cause of this great, golden nation. But the forecast for our futures is anything but certain. And that night, to celebrate, we took to the streets like roaches.
Roger is a composition teacher at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. He's working on his first novel, and would like to tell you all about it.