Now that the screens are in the doors and windows, I lower my voice.
Remarks that, until recently, were confined to the household by closed windows now go shooting out the screens and into the public domain. If the neighbors didn't know better, they might think I actually scream at my children.
I do not scream, I holler. Hollering is a kinder, gentler method of communicating to inattentive offspring than screaming. A holler is instructive, as in "Stop swinging the baseball bat in the kitchen." A scream is pure frustration, as in "What am I going to do with you kids?"
Behind closed doors, the difference between hollering and screaming is apparent. But to a shocked passer-by strolling near an open window, it all sounds like father-fury. So, during screen season, I try to speak softly and grab the swinging baseball bats.
Screen season, the stretch of time when it is too warm to shut the windows and too cool to turn on the air conditioning, has been long this year. That means there have been plenty of chances to putter around with screens, patching holes and lubricating the tracks that the screens move in.
As a screen-patching hobbyist, I have become familiar with the household cement and masking tape methods of mending.
In one, you fix a small tear in a fiberglass screen by aligning the torn edges, holding them together by putting a strip of masking tape on one side of the screen. With the tape in place, you spread household cement over the other side of the tear. When the cement dries, you carefully remove the tape and the torn screen is mended.
You plug bigger holes in plastic and fiberglass screens with a patch. Cut the patch a little bigger than the hole, spread the household cement around the edges of the patch, then press it onto the screen.
It has been my experience that these cement-tricks work fine, until a strong wind blows. A big wind shakes the screens, and as the repair pieces fly, the wicked wind says, "Hah! I laugh at your patches."
Sewing patches on screens has worked for me. With a plain old needle and thread I have sewn the repair patch to the screen. It may look tacky, but when a storm attacks a sewn-on patch, I am the one who ends up laughing.
Replacing entire sections of screen attached to wooden frames is a big job which I have done the right way and the wrong way.
The wrong way is to cut the replacement screen too short, not allowing about 2 inches extra on the side and an extra foot or so along the top of the frame.
The extra screen at the top of the frame is wrapped around a flat board. After one end of the screen has been stapled to the bottom the frame, the board pulls the screen tight as you staple it into place. The extra screen on the sides allows you to make mistakes in alignment.
Getting a window screen that has been idle all winter back to work is a ritual of spring, like the first attempts to crank up the power mower. The screen is often reluctant to slide into its working position.
I have read that to ease the struggle with metal storm doors and windows, you can clean their tracks with a sponge paint applicator that has been soaked in mineral spirits. Similarly you can make the edges of metal window frames slippery by wiping them with a rag dabbed in mineral spirits. Finally, serious screen slicksters spray one of those lubricants in the window channels.
I usually forgo the cleaning part of the ritual. I yank, spray and yank some more.
When all the screens are in place, a great feeling of security washes over me. It is similar to the feeling I get when it rains hard and the roof doesn't leak. It represents a victory over the elements.
That sense of triumph usually lasts until the first fly buzzes through the house. Somehow this creature has penetrated the screens, my home's bug defense system. A bug alert is sounded. The kids and I fold newspapers and get ready to attack.
At night we turn out all the lights and turn the television set on. Flies and other bugs seem to like TV. As soon as they land on the screen, we squash them.
Sometimes we miss. And when we do there is usually some hollering, which carries out the window screen and might sound like screaming.
So here's a tip for the screen season. Before you go fly hunting, be sure to close the windows.