Here is the scene at my house: everywhere you see the dead bodies of cats, sprawled out limp on the linoleum. Oh, okay, maybe they aren’t really dead, they are just sleeping, but that's the effect. Seven limp cats, draped on the floor, unable to move in the heat. They aren't even hissing at each other. In this heat, they've called some kind of truce.
Of course, the bigger lumps on the floor, clad mostly in black t-shirts and shorts, are kids. Boy in Black and Shaggy Hair decided yesterday evening that their strategy for handling the heat wave would be to stay up all night celebrating the fact that July was over. (Their evil mother had banned computer games for the month of July.) Their plan was to play computer games all night and then spend the day sleeping on the floor. Every once in a while, Shaggy Hair will sit up and complain, "It’s too hot to sleep," before falling back into a sound sleep.
The voice on the radio tells us that a running race has been cancelled. And we are supposed to check on elderly neighbors. We are a region well-prepared to deal with snowstorms: heat waves, not so much.
Skater Boy is lying on the floor with an ice pack on his head, which makes him look wounded even though he is not. Pirate Boy, unbelievably, is sitting at the computer. I say unbelievably because the kids' computer is in an upstairs bedroom with a southeast exposure and the room feels like the inside of a dishwasher. The even more unbelievable part is that both these kids live in homes that have air conditioning and for some inexplicable reason are at my house instead. Blonde Niece, clad in a bathing suit, with her hair wet and pulled back from her face, is lying on the floor in the hallway, where she claims she is catching a breeze from one of two electric fans that we own.
My Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter is talking happily on her cell phone to Film Guy, whose grandmother has a pool and has invited her over. She volunteers at a women's shelter and spent a sweaty morning lugging bags of clothes and boxes of belongings over sizzling city sidewalks to move several women into apartments. So she probably deserves a swim. With-a-Why, on the other hand, has not moved all day: he is lying on the floor, reading a book. I don’t think anyone in the house has eaten anything, although the kitchen counter is crowded with glasses from the many glasses of juice we've had. Oh, Blonde Niece did cut up the watermelon. Can we count that as lunch?
As I lie on the floor, I tell myself to soak in the heat, let it somehow enter my bones, where I will store it for the cold winter ahead. Next January, when I am sitting on a chairlift, after several runs down the ski slope, and I am shivering with cold, the wind sending chills through my wet clothes and my feet so icy that they are painful, I will try to remember this heat.
I tell one of my kids this theory about heat, how we can store it up in our bones the way plants turn summer sunlight into food for the winter. He lifts his head from the floor and mutters, "Humans don’t have chlorophyll."