Feeling Hot Hot Hot!

It’s Slice Of Life time again.

One of the prompts this week is A Very Hot Day.

Very apt for this time of year in Australia.

I wrote about the heatwave we’ve been having not long ago, but the recent heat was nothing compared to a few years ago when it was 44 degrees C on New Year’s Day. That’s 111.2 degrees F.

It began late afternoon the day before when the revellers were preparing for New Year’s Eve. The heat began to rise from the cracks in the asphalt, bubbling in stormwater drains, ricocheting whiplike, off the sides of buildings.

I have always thought that birds have the power of prophecy and on that afternoon they were restless, almost mournful, jostling for the best spots in the trees with the largest canopies.

I should have known when the sun set that something was up. The sky disassembled, moving from splendid blue to vivid pink in under an hour. As the night thrust itself forward, a red slash appeared through the pink as if the sky was bleeding from the inside.

We sipped our New Year’s drinks half-heartedly as the heat circled and zinged at our feet, held back by its generals, waiting till morning to strike.

At 6AM it was 30C. By 9AM it was almost 40C. The sky was washed with lemon. The air was being mixed, thickened to a paste. There was a hum, a sort of keening, as if someone was holding a grenade and had just pulled the pin.

By 11AM it was 44C. I put water out in plastic pots for the birds. Within 20 minutes it was too hot to drink and the plastic had begun to fold in on itself like a Dali still life. There were no birds around anyway, they had taken heed of their own prophecy and had found a cool oasis somewhere.

The house we were living in at the time had air conditioning. We thanked our good fortune, turning it on full blast and lay on the couch watching TV and sucking on ice cubes.

Around noon we remembered Bob the Cat. Our neighbour’s cat, we were looking after him while she was lounging around on an island somewhere. He was a Prussian blue with a really thick coat and we couldn’t leave him out in the heat even though we’d been given explicit instructions that Bob stay outside at all times.

He is an outdoor cat, she said. He never comes inside. He doesn’t like to come inside. And that’s that.

In all my years of knowing cats, I have never met one who didn’t like to make themselves at home inside. It was too hot to worry if I was doing the wrong thing so I went next door and carried Bob back to our place (boy, was that cat heavy). He drank an entire bowl of water, planted himself in front of the air conditioner, and slept all afternoon.

As the hours passed and the sun continued to beat down stolidly, we took turns standing at the back door with wet cloths around our necks, listening for the wind. We threw glasses of water on the panting ground and watched as it dried in seconds. We draped tarpaulins and wet tablecloths over trees and plants that looked like they might not be able to endure any more heat and checked for signs of clouds in the unbroken blue sky.

As night fell and insects that seemed larger than usual flung themselves at the windows, we began to despair of a cool change. Eventually it came, a mere insinuation at first, a cool fingertip brushing the edges of our psyches.

By midnight the curtains were streaming into the house. Bob the Cat got up, yawned and decided he was going home, squeezing between the loose boards in the fence with a haughty look back as if to say Thanks, I suppose.

In the semi-dark we lay on top of the covers, still drunk with heat. The air was as still as if it belonged to our ancestors from a pre-industrial age. Slowly, the heat dissipated, and we realised that for hours we had been holding our bodies tense, poised for flight.

The night was blood-warm. A silver haze shimmered at ground level, stray beams of daylight caught by the scorched streets. It was cool enough to sleep. Cool enough to know we had survived. We closed our eyes and dreamed of living underwater. And at last we were at peace.

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16 thoughts on “Feeling Hot Hot Hot!

  1. When they had the ‘unprecedented’ heatwave a couple of years ago, I had a gig to write about different kinds of television. (Boring as hell, but it paid well)

    Anyway, I wanted to compare the quality of an LCD television with a plasma screen, so I went down to an electrical warehouse … it was air-conditioned, and all the televisions were showing pictures of GLACIERS … followed by a documentary about penguins in Antarctica, and one about high mountaineering in the Alps.

    I often wondered how many televisions these films sold for them?

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  2. You’re making me glad I don’t live near the equator. I take it you turned the air conditioning off at night?

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  3. QUERULOUS:
    It’s funny, when I was writing this I did get a little futuristic chill. I am chilled even more realising you are right – the future is already here.

    TRAVELRAT:
    Marketing at its finest. I bet they sold plenty of those glacial TVs. It’s like those gas fires with the fake burning logs. We bought one of those years ago because we thought it looked so cosy, but it was hopeless. The room was always cold.

    TOBEME:
    Thanks so much. πŸ˜€

    RICHARD:
    Oh, of course we turned the air conditioning off at night. Yes, yes. We are responsible and considerate like that. πŸ˜‰

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  4. Absolutely love your writing style, totally enjoyed the blog. I am also so glad you bought Bob the cat inside against owners wishes. This morning I woke with actual goosebumps on me, it felt so strange, was beginning to feel would never feel them again. Needless to say it didn’t last long, the wind died right down again half hour later, and getting ready for another day of the inferno. Stay cool, and keep blogging, marvellous.

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  5. Selma, dear Selma, we are still enduring scorching temperatures and it has been about 9 days since the temp went below 39 degrees. You walk outside and you can feel the heat emanating from the ground and up the leg of your shorts. It beats down on your head from on high and swirls around you like a torturous tornado.

    I saw 2 dead lorikeets on the ground this morning. They had no obvious injuries so I gathered they were another casualty of this relentless heat. Poor things. Would you believe a little field mouse staggered in the other day when the kids left the door open and just dropped dead on the rug? It’s ridiculous and we are not expected to get a change til Saturday. Pray that I live that long.

    A great story but wish I could have read it on a cold day. πŸ™‚

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  6. This is my idea of a weather nightmare. 😦 You’ve captured the feeling of being uncomfortably hot, so vividly and aptly. Well done Selma. Yikes!!!! 44 above on New Year’s Day, now that’s something that’s hard to imagine. G

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  7. WHATSYRPROBLEM:
    Thanks so much for stopping by. Am I right in assuming you are in Australia? The heat is insane right now. I just couldn’t leave Bob out there. Poor thing. I know what you mean about the joy of feeling goosebumps again. it is such a relief. Hope things cool down for you soon.

    ROMANY:
    I am sad about the poor lorikeets and the little field mouse. What a shame. So many animals have no chance in the extreme heat. I hope that change comes through sooner rather than later. Keep your fluids up and don’t exert yourself too much. Thinking of you…

    GERALDINE:
    It is a weather nightmare. There is an apocalyptic sense to it. It gives you an idea of what it would be like to be barbecued. I don’t know how people in Africa or the Middle East put up with it on a regular basis.

    MELEAH:
    It is a bit like that. Way too much!!

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  8. Despite your obvious discomfort during the heat wave, your description was glorious and I LOVE this post. Such beauty in the midst of pain.

    (I’ve missed coming here, it’s been too long of a dry spell for me. I’d forgotten how much your writing feeds my soul).

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  9. KAREN:
    I am so glad you’re back. I have really missed you. This is a good sign, i think, that things are starting to settle down for you. I am really glad. YAY!!

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  10. We’re slowly starting to recover from four days of 43+ (one of which hit a record high of 45.1). I checked the 7-day forecast today and saw a number I couldn’t quite believe: it will supposedly be 19 next Tuesday. Oh what bliss! I hope they’re right.

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