It was official. My city had become Hell on Earth.
The intense heat wave that plagued my city showed no sign of letting up. Every day my grandma prayed for rain then fried an egg. There was no relief in sight.
One morning, early because no one could sleep through the night without losing half their body weight in sweat, she gave me some money and sent me to the store for ice. School was canceled for the third day straight. It wouldn’t look good for the superintendent if, without air conditioning in the dilapidated building, students passed out in class after all. Best to let them pass out at home instead.
Grabbing my skate board I jumped off my stoop and headed out, the family’s precious dollars clutched in my slick palms. Kicking along, I started to hum a tune I’d heard on the radio earlier in the week. Not many people were outside except those determined to fight the heat and enjoy life regardless of health advisories. I, personally, did not think that was a very well thought out plan.
I pushed past a group of men on the corner of my block, standing around drinking beer in the middle of the day. One of them, the most drunken it seemed, flagged me down. “Hey there son, do a favor and go buy us some drinks.”
“What kind?” I played along. I knew these guys. A bunch of lazy no goods. My grandma always told me to avoid them and never speak to one. Sorry Grandma.
“Oh, you know…” The man said, eyeing my money. Suddenly he reached for it, grabbing my wrist hard. I don’t want to alarm you, but I would just like to say my childhood had prepared me well for such incidents. Rocking back on my board I kicked hard, doubling over the man until he landed face first on the ground. His friends rose off the steps and I was gone, ignoring their cries as I headed on.
I heard a particular yell rise up from behind. Glancing over my shoulder I saw a somewhat troubling sight. The men I passed happened to own a dog. Said dog was a big hulking beast, known throughout the neighborhood to be a bit of a barker. I guess those guys really wanted those drinks, for they’d unleashed this dog after me in the form of a slobbering bulldozer.
My grandma had also always told me to respect my elders. Sorry Grandma.
Slow motion started. I turned the corner and everything sped up. I kicked and pushed as fast as I ever had. Never looking back I heard the dog tagging behind me, slowly gaining. Weaving between garbage cans and flying over dips and cracks in the pavement, I rode hard until I burst through the convenience store doors. Slamming the door behind me the dog skidded to a halt outside, panting worse than I was. Sniffing the door he sat himself down and waited.
“You ok kid?” The cashier asked from behind the counter.
“Yeah,” I said, slowly backing away. The dog stayed put, sweating beneath the pits. He suddenly sneezed. I hardly believed this dog was supposed to attack anything. He was more comical than anything. I turned towards the only other person in the store. “I want some ice.”
“Don’t we all?” He snorted. “We’re flat sold out. Have been all week.”
“What?” I gasped. “How can you be out of ice? It’s just frozen water!”
“And guess what the nation is in a shortage of right now?” He leaned onto his elbows. “Unless you’re going to buy something, go somewhere else. I can’t have nonpaying kids on skateboards sucking up all my cool air.”
Frowning I turned towards the door, unwelcome. Looking outside, I changed my mind and turned back. “Actually…”
A dog treat was a poor substitution for water, but I hoped my grandma’s good nature would understand my sudden adoption of the neighborhood terror. The big teddy bear followed me slow and peaceful as could be. I went pretty slow myself, not even riding my skateboard. I felt too dejected and hot.
I passed in front of those bum’s apartment again, and surprise surprise, they were still sitting outside. “Hey kid,” The first man had recovered himself enough to approach me again. “Did you—”
“They were out! They were out of everything!” I shouted as I sulked past, dodging his hands again. A response I never heard as I walked off, their supposed loyal companion following me all the way home. I dragged my board behind me, letting it bang off the stairs noisily.
“I’m back!” Opening the door the hound now named “Bear”, courtesy of his new owner, sauntered in and plopped himself down next to the sofa, perfectly at home. He let out a great sigh of content tiredness.
“Welcome home,” My grandma appeared out of the kitchen.
“I’m sorry Grandma, but they were out of ice.” I shrugged as I leaned my board against the wall and threw off my shoes.
“I figured as much.” She nodded. Noticing the figure shedding short brown hairs all over her carpet, she raised an eyebrow.
“He followed me home?” I tried. “It’s the truth.”
She nodded again and said nothing more about it; instead making me a sandwich and setting me about studying my math. “Even if you’re school is closed, you’re mind shouldn’t be.” Said she.
Bear lived with us for quite a while eating effectively out of house and home. Never once did he return to his previous home, even for a visit. They never came a knocking for him either. Bonds between brothers were so fickle at the time. Heat can make a man crazy my Grandma said.
The heat wave continued for several more weeks. Ever a cloud appeared, the entire city gathered at their windows waiting for baited breath. Nothing ever fell. My Grandma continued to pray regardless. I complained much, my Grandma little.
*Note: How is everyone? Staying cool I hope! It’s ridiculously hot where I live… Over a hundred degrees every day it’s been. Have I mentioned that I strongly dislike summer recently?