Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Draw Fan

I remember the sound of the draw fan in the ceiling at the top of the stairs by the linen closet, thrumming through hot summer nights. My father, an inventor, had rigged up a crude timer switch, with a little pulley wheel for a dial. I used to imagine that a mysterious creature lived in there, half vulture, half vampire, a bird-monster that made its home in the fan’s louvered nest (that opened mysteriously when the fan turned on).

Though the fan was off-limits to me and George, my twin brother, I’d sneak out there in the middle of the night and give the dial a hefty turn, so it would go on and on all night long, billowing the blue curtains next to my bed. Most nights, my mother would wake up and sabotage my wish; I’d hear the closet door (where the switch was kept) open, and then the fan would stop, and I’d lie there, awake on top of the sheets, hostage to the sizzles and chirps of cicadas and crickets singing their stifling songs.

Running the fan all night was an extravagance, sure, but it comforted me. It wasn’t just coolness I was after, but the sound—that roaring, rumbling rhythm, like rolling thunder, or ocean surf, or the turbines of a passenger steamship—a sound that conveyed power, authority, and steadfastness: a soothing masculine growl that assured me that together, somehow, no matter how hot and humid and long, we’d get through the night.


Wendy said...

This is a beautiful short piece. Nice moment!

Peter Selgin said...

Thanks, Wendy.