Scorcher

“Hey Ms. O, what was that?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing, Darlin’. Don’t you have something you need to be doing?” I looked pointedly at his project.
Suddenly there was a whoosh and a crackle. I could see flames shooting up just beyond the windows.
“Let’s get out of this room and move into the hallway for now, guys. No, just leave it. Let’s go.”
The lights flickered and died and my kids scattered. I didn’t think to encourage them to make for the front door, away from the fire. Fire drill protocol sends them out the back, so some had gone one way, knowing the rules, and others had used common sense. I heaved a sigh, went back into my room to grab the stack of homework and watched through the window as Coach hit the fire with an extinguisher from the cafeteria. I chased the kids down, one by one, to give them their homework (by this time, there’d been an all-call for students to head to the front of the building, though some of mine had escaped out the back door and were watching the drama) and I made it out back just in time to witness another small explosion and the spectacle of Coach lighting out for the hill country.

My classroom has a nice view of not much on a good day, but it was a front row seat for the drama of a transformer blowing out at high noon on a Monday. The initial fires suppressed, the area was roped off and the kids lost interest and stopped being a nuisance. Workmen showed up quickly and looked over the problem. They left, and we learned that they’d have to cut the power supply to the school to fix it, so they’d deal with it after the last bell. After lunch, the kids went back to class. My room was dark, lit only by the projector, and full of the smell of that smoking hole in the ground.

I taught a full 55 minute lesson in there, and I nearly slipped in a puddle of my own sweat about halfway through. The kids dragged, but they were wonderful, graceful seniors and they didn’t complain too much. I inquired in the office and learned that the a/c was out all through the building. For the last two classes of the day, I taught an abbreviated version of the lesson in the hot-tub of my classroom. The smell of the 25 ninth graders oozing began to replace the smoke smell. As quickly as possible, I moved the class into the little air-conditioned gym in the elementary school next door. The echo was bad, but it beat the heat.

It’s been unbearably hot and humid for a week or so. We’re actually under a heat advisory right now (who doesn’t cancel school under these conditions? No lights+no air+heat advisory=sendthemhomedangit).  Sean bravely goes out to the garden every day or two to harvest tomatoes and do the absolutely necessary chores. He planted potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips and beets yesterday like a freaking gladiator. There is no time of day or night when it’s cool outside. There is no “early enough” that I can get up to beat the heat and go for a run. Sunrise is sweltering. I hate sticking to the bedsheets. Our friends in town had balloons melt into their upstairs carpet over the summer. I burn myself on the metal fastener of my seat belt every afternoon, and I have to handle the steering wheel with care for the first ten minutes of my drive. Gladys (Carro’s a/c) whistles and groans to life after a while, but not before I’ve felt a few more brain cells explode like pop-cans all over the interior of my skull. The pigs lie in their wallow and squeal for fresh cool water. The cats don’t set foot outside the house. Bear creek is just a bathtub full of alligators and cottonmouths (at least in my imagination) and I bet they’re irritable from the heatwave too. Besides, the lake is as warm as the air, and getting wet is hardly worth it: evaporation can’t cool you when the air’s as wet as you are.

Wish me a cold front, folks.

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