Our air conditioner went out. And if I were to tell you that it’s hot, I would be making a gross understatement. It’s not hot. It’s sweltering—that’s what my mama calls it.
Our bedsheets feel like they’re made of industrial wool. I smell like the raw side of a mule. My wife has sweat rings under her sweat rings. Our dog looks suicidal.
I don’t know how the old-timers did it, before window-units. I remember my grandfather saying, as a boy, he’d sit beneath his house with his dogs. He’d practice guitar; they’d pant.
His mother would lower lunch through the loose floorboards—crumbled cornbread in a jar, doused with buttermilk.
“All food ought be cold during the dog days,” he’d say. “Tea, tomatoes, cucumbers, potato salad, watermelon, slaw…”
And then there were summer Sundays. “Church was awful,” my grandfather said. “Cramming a bunch of folks into one hot little chapel, everybody sweating. It’s enough to make you believe in Hell.”
Even so, Hell happened to be his favorite season of the year. I asked him how this could be, when only hours earlier, I’d seen two trees fighting over a dog.
He said, “We didn’t notice the heat, we just enjoyed the outdoors. Air conditioners only made everyone stay inside.”
I suppose he’s right. Before artificial air, the best place in the world was the porch. Summer was a season for cooking outside—cooking indoors would’ve melted your face off. When everyone got together for fresh tomatoes, and red-and-white checkered table cloths.
It was a time when young folks like my grandfather visited the honky tonks on the edge of town. There, he’d pay fifteen cents for all-you-can-drink hooch, sweat through his hat, and smile at girls in cheap cotton dresses.
That’s why he liked summer.
It’s a season when the world becomes overrun with possibilities. Good ones. Anything can happen. On any given night. On any dirt road. At any country dance, underneath any oak tree. In fact, something wonderful could happen right now.
It’s when kisses taste like salt, when you expect your dance partner to sweat through their clothes. It’s when you go swimming with your dogs in the creek, and let the warm water swallow you.
Right now, my shirt is drenched, my nose is dripping, and it feels hotter than the ambient temperature of Satan’s attic. I’d like to get our AC fixed, but I’m busy right now.
This cornbread and sweet milk isn’t going to eat itself, you know.