As I write this post, it’s 110°F in Austin, TX. As you can imagine, the heat is a subject that flares up at some point in every conversation. The usual, “You keeping cool?” or “I don’t know how people work outdoors when it’s this hot.”
I started brainstorming with myself about how a writer of fiction might describe extreme heat without being trite. Ideally, it involves “showing, not telling,” especially when it reveals the impact on characters. My list:
- A couple in a car argue over how much money to give to a panhandler who offers bottled water from a cooler to drivers.
- Firefighters collapse from heat exhaustion.
- A mail carrier sees a tied-up dog in distress, gives it water, and returns after dark to rescue the animal.
- While eyes are closed and heads are bowed in prayer, a church-goer takes a hand fan, provided compliments of Bowers Funeral Home, and slips it into her purse.
- A driver encountering a road block where a work crew is removing concrete chunks realizes the debris had burst from expanded highway seams.
- Looters delight in a power outage.
- Mother, who has never been known to utter a swear word, grips a hot handrail and says, “Holy shit.”
- The lover on top slides off.
- A roofer buying work boots inquires about soles that won’t melt.
- Homeless people park with their backpacks and over-stuffed trash bags in the public library.
- Swamped by an increase in heat-related emergencies, an EMS team loses precious minutes getting to a call because they’ve run out of ice and have to stop at a convenience store.
- Home Depot sells out of window air conditioners.
- Home invasion burglaries go up as more people sleep with their windows open.
- An air-conditioned mosque provides overnight shelter for people of all faiths.
Btw, I have some experience with # 3 and #5. I once knew a musician who sometimes after a late gig would rescue dogs he knew to be abused. And I once had to stop on a highway while road crews removed chunks of concrete.
Your thoughts? Leave a comment.
Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin.