by D Carlson
In the heat of the the day a man snaps
|I put the shovel down and sat on the edge of the hole. I felt as if I was Vulcan's apprentice forging the gods' own weapons in the heart of the mountains of Lemnos.
I had a grim smile as I grabbed another beer from the Igloo cooler. Looking around me I swore I could almost hear the dirt under my feet harden and crack as it baked in the heat of the day.
I dipped my dirty dress shirt in the cooler's ice water and wrung it over my head before running it over my sweating body. Somebody told me once not to do that because the water droplets would focus the sun and burn my skin even more. That was before he asked the Question.
The one question that for me developed the standard of capitalization.
I hopped into the hole again and gauged the approximate depth according to my own height. Good, only a bit more to go. I picked up the shovel and bent again to my task. My mind drifted and I was back when my alarm enthusiastically failed to wake me.
It was too bright for 6:00. In a panic I looked at my cell phone. Nearly two hours late? I threw my clothes on, not caring if they were clean. If it smelled okay I wore it. No time to be picky.
It was too quiet in my small apartment. And stuffy. The refrigerator wasn't running, and neither was the air conditioner. I tried the lights. Nothing. A faint electrical smell emanated from the window AC unit. The wall outlet was black. The machine had shorted and it cascaded throughout the apartment. I poked my head out the door to discover the always present corridor light was also out. I killed the whole building.
My granddad's voice sounded in my head, “If you're gonna cause trouble, do it right.” Well, I guess I did it right.
My apartment manager was not much use either. She did promise to have the power on in a short while as the power company had already been called. The fried air conditioner, however would take a couple of weeks to replace. I was politely informed that if it was that important to me, I could spend my own money for a new purchase and it could be taken out of my rent. That sounded good, but she pointed out that it would have to be of at least the same quality of the old one and that would amount to about four months rent free. Since I did not have five thousand dollars handy, I graciously offered to wait the two weeks.
At least I could spend nine hours in a nice cool office, right? Nope.
The maintenance staff had been performing routine upgrades to the building's massive HVAC units when they discovered a small puddle. Further investigation revealed that this puddle stemmed from a rather large break in the pipes.
The office floor buzzed with the discordant sounds of hundreds of personal fans, ranging from small hand-held ones (with the built-in spray bottle) to small floor fans whose boxes proclaimed new technology that seemed to promise gale-force winds.
An annoying co-worker (I think her name was Alison) sidled up to me and asked me the Question. I think that's when it grew into its uppercase status. I had heard the Question no less than four times already this morning and I hadn't been out of bed ninety minutes yet. My vision clouded for a few seconds and then the cloud formed a reddish tunnel. I had to get out. I ran from the building, offering my boss a muddled and probably completely incoherent apology.
At least my car had AC. I drove. For miles I drove aimlessly, randomly. My head cleared and I actually began to enjoy the day. It was hot and dry as only central Arizona can be, but it was also beautiful day, also as only the Arizona deserts can be. My fuel gauge began blinking, but I knew there was a tiny town just a few miles away. I turned left and ten minutes later I entered a village that barely justified its small dot in the world of Rand-McNalley.
I stepped into the gas station and found it also housed the general store. I saw hammers, shovels, various sizes of oil cans and in the center of the floor was a rather well done display of five saddles, each bearing different styles and craftsmanship. I stepped up to the counter with my cold Coke. As a second thought I picked out the cooler and a case of beer. It had been a long drive on a hot day and I thought I might make use of the overpriced motel. Then the man at the register (his shirt identified him as Henry) asked –
I stood up and again measured the hole against my frame and climbed out. I opened my trunk and hefted the black lawn bag over the lip. After that hot work the best I could do was drag it to the hole before tipping it in.
Filling the hole in was much easier than digging it out and was finished in just fifteen or twenty minutes. As I cracked another beer and sat on the ice chest I had to ask the Question.
“What do you think, Henry? Hot enough for you?”