by Jake Christie

HEAT WAVE.
a story.

On the first day people welcomed the heat. For months it had been cold, bitterly cold, and the common refrain that winter should pack up its bags and go on holiday echoed through the streets. And though everybody knew that temperatures weren't supposed to reach the mid-nineties in a New England January, they ignored any wariness that they might have felt. “It's just a fluke,” they said. “Anomaly. Indian Summer. Just enjoy it.” The streets became slick with lukewarm water. Ditches were caked with salt.

On the second day people started to swarm the beaches. The Bureau of Parks and Lands had to bring people in off-season, voluntary or per diem, to man the park gates. People climbed up to their attics, sweating, to get towels and umbrellas. The water was still too cold to swim in, but there was a cool breeze coming in from off-shore. The meteorologists were stumped. “We've never seen anything like it,” they said. “We don't know how long it will last.”

On the third day people put away their storm windows. They brought their screens out of storage. Sales of air conditioners and fans hit record mid-winter numbers. With three days of temperatures over ninety degrees, it was officially a heat wave. Down the coast, in New York, they were still buried under a foot of snow. The governor of Maine invited people to come visit, promising less crowded beaches than Florida and cleaner air than southern California. The snow was all gone and the ground had turned dry.

At the end of the first week, people started to get annoyed. The heat they had been begging for had exhausted its novelty and become oppressive. People stayed inside, in front of their air conditioners. They cursed the sweat in their eyes and honked endlessly during any hot jam up in traffic. They exhaled loudly in any line where they had to spend extra seconds in the sun. Meteorologists tracking a cold front near the Carolinas promised that, if it hit, they would be blanketed in snow.

The storm brushed against the coast, and over the next week the temperatures dropped through the 80s, the 70s, the 50s, until it was seasonably cold with highs in the low 30s. The first day temperatures dipped below freezing, people cheered. They happily retrieved their coats from their closets and their shovels from their sheds. The second day, clad in mittens and scarves, they put their storm windows back up and sipped on hot cocoa.

On the third day they remarked that they were catching cold and couldn't wait until summer arrived.


Share on Facebook | back to smallstories.me