To Build a Fire. And the Flux Capacitor

Living like it’s 1912 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Temperature in my bedroom this morning: 89

Number of times I saw “Back to the Future” the first month it was released: 3

Etta James CDs my father-in-law bought to remember this trip to America: 1

I remember how innocent I was two days ago. How I laughed in the face of 105 degree temperatures.

I am a changed woman.

On the last evening that my parents-in-law were here in America, our upstairs air conditioner broke. It was the record-setting heat day where the thermometer topped 105, and at 5 p.m., a bedroom that’s 93 isn’t so fun: my shower didn’t take.

We decided my in-laws would sleep on a mattress in the den downstairs, because they are a.) our guests and b.) less acclimated to heat. Also, we didn’t want them to hear us writhing and moaning in despair.

At my kids’ bedtime, we sat on my bed, not touching, and prepared to read together.

My daughter said, “I’m afraid I’ll suffocate tonight.” I explained that just getting really hot wouldn’t make you suffocate.

But I didn’t totally buy it. My breath was starting to… well, I couldn’t… no air. I started wondering if we might all suffocate, and my in-laws would find us in the morning, lying in our pools of sweat.

But I think I convinced my daughter.

So we read a couple of chapters of “Divergent,” just a little dystopic bedtime story about factions and violence and war. No biggie.

I finished reading, and we all sat there, the heat heavy all around us.

I might have screamed, “Don’t touch me!” I’m not proud of it.

“You know, I think it’s getting cooler in here,” my daughter said, her voice slow and contemplative.

That’s when I started to worry. Well, started to worry again.

Back in middle school, we read the short story, “To Build a Fire.” As the main character is freezing to death, he imagines he is getting warmer. He can feel the heat from the fire.

It haunted me for years, even though the chance of me getting stuck in a blizzard in suburban Atlanta were about the same as, well, a snowball’s chance in H-E-double-hockey-sticks.

Now my daughter was imagining the air was cooling down when it had actually gone up a degree.

We were doomed.

Both kids fell asleep quickly in their beds, spread-eagled with minimal clothing.

My husband and I consulted each other thoughtfully requested each other’s opinions argued heatedly about whether we should open the windows or leave them closed.

Good news! I won! Windows open!

My husband fell asleep within 2.2 seconds. I, however, lay awake. Each time I would start to drift off, I heard a


I wondered if it was a really stupid roach that had gotten in through the gap at the side of the screen. Or maybe the ceiling fan was going to fall on me and crush my legs and then I would never run again.

So I got up and looked out the window. My evening had gotten better! Gale force winds! They were blowing the little plastic thingies on the ends of the blinds up against the wall. Oh! That was the rat-a-tat-tat sound!

Pyrrhic victory: I discovered it was the blinds, but now I was up against a tornado.

I swear to you, my three faithful readers, my first thought was that if a tornado hit our house, it would make a really, really good blog post.

Bad news: my husband won. We had to close the windows.

By morning, our house had not blown away, I was starting to hallucinate that the house was getting cooler, and I had drunk about 3 gallons of water. My mouth still felt dry.

And here’s when I tell you the real reason I married my husband: it was not because he looked like Jason Priestly from 90210. It was because he knew how to fix air conditioners for $11.

He discovered the bum part was something like a flux capacitor.  I got a great vision of him and Doc from “Back to the Future” trying to hit 88 miles per hour in a DeLorean.

He said no. It was the capacitor.

He said lots of numbers, blah, blah, blah, big battery thingie, blah blah blah.

I’m still picturing a DeLorean. And preparing to blast into the future.

I might dream about it tonight in my super-cool bedroom. And one day I may write an ode to air conditioning.