It’s hot as the gates of Hades out there. Even a motorcycle ride can’t cool things down. Pockets of hot air blast past, countering the meager wind chill created by zooming at 55 MPH down baking country roads. It’s hot enough to raise a sweat on a warm beer glass, to melt asphalt, to curl the edges of the hydrangeas in whatever self defense they have against nature.
It’s hot enough that 74 degrees inside feels like an icebox, a welcome respite from the furnace of the outdoors.
There’s a Ray Bradbury story about the temperature at which people go crazy. At least I THINK it’s by Bradbury, though I can’t find a reference for it right now. The theorem is that above something like 104 degrees, all semblance of societal niceties dissolve in a puddle of anger and violence. People start killing people, robbing, looting; domestic incidences flash and burn, higher functions give way to reptilian ‘me first-ism.”
If this is true, I’m surprised that more people didn’t resort to outright murder on a more regular basis before the advent of freon and all its marvels. No AC to me would be the worst thing imaginable right now. Sweltering hot, perspiring quiet desperation into clinging cotton shifts, moving steaming air fruitlessly with a jauntily painted paper fan in hopes of finding a cool spot, I’d be up for a little murder to quell the rising anger at circumstances. Oh, I’d be a damp angry mess of a woman, and heaven help whoever would have the audacity ask me to do anything more than simply exist.
Petticots would come off. Long sleeves? Never. Shoes? Fugeddaboudit. I’d be the slattern on the back porch in her chemise, damp, wilted, exhausted, waiting for night to do something worth doing except trying to escape the heat, a wet towel over my head dripping gently onto my shoulders, cooling ever so slightly before steaming away. It would be ice cream for dinner; the kids would have to turn the crank. It would be card games in the root cellar, hair tied high up on my head, a bottle of ginger ale brought up from the cooling waters of the creek by my side as we wait for nightfall.
And even if night was only a few degrees cooler than the misery of day was, it would be something worth having, a chance to rest and restore in order to gird for the next day’s battle against the heat and the urge toward murder.
If I didn’t win that battle, then at least I’d hope for a nice cool dungeon in which to spend my sentence. It wouldn’t be so bad then.