It was just a little old mason jar- the kind with the screw-on cap and “Ball” in raised letters on the side of the glass. The jar was left over from when my old buddy Troy came by one time to share some of the fine homemade sour mash he cooked up in the hills behind his house. I’d never quite got around to finishing the last of the stuff off, so I’d wager the Midnights have, by
now, probably taken on a decided liquor-y flavor, if one were to unscrew the lid and open the jar (which would be a most calamitously bad decision, without doubt).
I’d caught the Midnights in a field down near Eighty-Four, PA, on a summer’s
evening back in ’06. That night was a warm one, and the fireflies were doing their little flickering air ballet all over the tall grass and skunk cabbage. The Midnights were busy watching the fireflies and I just kinda snuck up on them. I poked a couple holes in the metal cap of the jar for the Midnights to breathe, and threw in a few twigs and things for them to eat and crawl on and stuff. The Midnights seemed contented enough, and just flitted around here and there. They seemed to especially like crawling around on the inside of the glass, so I could get a good view of their dark blue bellies, each filled with what must have been a thousand tiny white specks. They seemed content to bide their time in there- just waiting around for the moment the big hand and the little hand both reached twelve, I guess.
Now I had every intention of letting them loose before that, but around 9:30 I got a phone call from my buddy Troy (who’d given me the jar). Seems he’d had a bad run-in with a combine machine, and had had one of his testicles plucked clean off by the thing. So obviously that ended up taking up most of my attention that particular night, driving him to the hospital to see if they could re-attach his gonad and such.
So I forgot about the Midnights. And before I knew it 11:59 had gone straight on to 12:01, and we’d all missed it, because Midnight was stuck in a crummy little jar.
I was in a bit of a dilemma, then, the next evening. After a good deal of thought and a few beers, I decided it’d be a bad idea to open the jar and let both the Midnights out, since only one had a job to do. Of course I couldn’t tell which one was tonight’s midnight, and which one was last night’s (they both looked pretty much the same to my eye), so I figured the best thing to do was keep them both sealed up. Otherwise we’d have a Midnight flying all around with nothing to do, having missed his big moment the night before. There was just no telling the kind of trouble he’d get into. Best to play it safe, I figured.
So we missed midnight the next night, too. I sat in my room and watched carefully as the big hand on the wall clock swept straight past the twelve to come to rest on the first tick after 12:01. The whole world lost two minutes over those two nights, and no one seemed to really notice. But I still feel bad about it, all the same.
That’s about all that’s worth telling. The doctors weren’t able to sew poor old Troy’s right nut back on, but he’s doing fine anyway since he’s still got the one. The jar just sits on my mantel these days. Twice a week, I push a few bits of fresh green grass through the little holes in the lid so the Midnights can have a snack. Sometimes they still crawl on the glass and let me stare at their night sky bellies. They seem content enough- like two old timers in a retirement house, who’ve outlived their time and are resigned to just taking it easy for the duration, until they’re called home.
Or maybe it’s just the little bit of liquor still in there.