Rendered Fat Content


Maxfield Parrish: Cadmus Sowing the Dragon's Teeth (1908), created for Collier's
" … she asks me how it was out there. Miserable, I declare …"

I read a lot of comic books in my youth. My paper route left me rather affluent for a ten year old, so I could afford a few Baby Huey or Sad Sack comics, not to mention most every edition of MAD Magazine during its heydays. When I ran into a word I didn't know, I usually made up both a pronunciation as well as a meaning, and just continued reading as if I'd understood. Some words defy any eye's naive interpretation, the term for San Sack's uniform prominent among them for me. He wore fatigues, or FatEhGues, as I sub-vocally pronounced them to myself. I was uncertain what the term referred to. Perhaps Sad Sack's attitude, which he wore more prominently than he wore his uniform. It didn't matter. I always figured that whatever peg-legged interpretation I made when reading sufficed and might even prove superior to disrupting my reading flow to reference the real pronunciation and meaning. I still hesitate when I encounter that word, though, reverting to my first parsing before snapping back into my more mature understanding.

I've been noticing just how exhausting living beneath our current heat dome has become.
Nights and days and days and nights without respite from the searing heat leaves me feeling bruised and beaten. The thought of venturing forth sucks all sense of adventure out of me. I just want to hunker in and hunker down, though even those alternatives leave me feeling ill at ease. I can't quite find my spot. Not even a cool shower cools me off. Whatever I wear disconsolately hangs on me, another burden I'm bearing. The thought of cooking extinguishes itself. Prometheus' great gift seems more of a curse at a time like this. I'm experiencing heat fatigue, heat FatEhGue, and nothing blunts it. Overnight, the outside temp might touch our usual seasonal daily high, but as the low. We might, if lucky, experience three or four hours of such weak respite where we can open the house up and let it breathe, but the reprieve seems too brief. Shortly after sunrise, we're back to baking again.

Fatigue seems the condition most often overlooked when projecting. An estimator rarely inflates any number to counterbalance the numbing effects of repeated engagement or seasonal encumbrances. July carries a specific gravity greater than any April, yet one assumes continued performance at about the same average rate. My personal expectations don't shift, either. I consider myself slacking if I cannot quite muster a continuous volume of the usual outputs, though I find I cannot keep up with myself. Naps suddenly seem more urgent. I expect that I'm suffering from some kind of heat fatigue, however I pronounce it, but that's no excuse. If I was really committed, even half the HomeMaker I consider myself, I'd get over even this and continue unabated. I don't. By evening, I'm wrung out, a sweat rag repeatedly squeezed yet incapable of absorbing even another drop.

An enormous oak down the street shed a limb in this heat. I had not known that this was a recognized thing, particularly with oaks, during extreme heat surges. Scientists aren't quite sure why. They think that it might have something to do with the oak tree's plumbing moving too much sap into a limb when attempting to counteract extreme evaporation. An extra few hundred pounds moving onto a horizontal limb can snap even healthy wood, bringing down a limb. Arborists doubt that this is a deliberate response to extreme heat, but it's been observed and noted. These failures usually come on windless mid-afternoons, with no warning, during times of especially extreme temperatures. I can relate to the oak's plight. My usual response to extreme exhaustion seems likely to break something. I move my sap as I know I should but sense something stressing. I move in ever slower motion.

The municipal swimming pool's filled to absolute overflowing. From the outside looking in, the water's surface seems one continuous organism featuring a thousand bobbing heads. The line's stalled on the long stairs up to the big slide. I cannot imagine myself going inside. I notice a sprinkler passing over the street and time my arrival perfectly, rolling down the passenger window so that the spray hits The Grand Other square in the face. She says she hates me, but she's laughing. I hate myself, too, but I'm also laughing. We're clearly suffering from something, heat FatEhGue or something even more unpronounceable. We went for a long drive through another sizzling afternoon, The Schooner's air conditioning superior to the Villa's. When we arrive at our destination, The Other declares that she's staying in the car. I don't blame her. I'd rather stay in the cool car, too. When I return, lowering my moistening mask, she asks me how it was out there. Miserable, I declare, before we slink back home in search of some watermelon or ice cream.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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