The lingering heat ruined the rain. There was no torrential downpour sweeping in on a cool wind. It didn’t cleave the sunbaked summer in two. It didn’t arrive with low, auspicious thunder and purple bolts of lightning. Instead, it fell in unsatisfying specks for days, exacerbating the already oppressive humidity, clogging every throat and drawing the sweat from every pore. It rushed down the street in brown torrents, pooling in the lowest intersections, and helped tires to grind asphalt into fresh potholes. The weeds had already begun to triple and the sodden, sucking earth didn’t yet allow for mowers to grind them back into stumps.
He woke up each morning with the sheets clinging to his body and showered only to sweat again within the hour. He suddenly favored juice over coffee, welcoming the cool slide of citrus down his throat each morning as the briefest possible reprieve. He dressed in shorts every day, but even that wasn’t enough to keep the sweat out from behind his knees, from beneath his arms, from sliding down the nape of his neck. His front door was sticking, suddenly, in a way it hadn’t before, bloated by warmth in its frame and he sighed when he realized the particularly large, ugly orb weaver that’d made its web between his porch light and the awning hadn’t yet been knocked away by the stuttering downpour.
He felt like he hadn’t been able to breathe in weeks.
The house on 14th Street, the house that wasn’t his own, seemed to have taken the weather to heart. The trim running beneath the gutter looked more chipped than ever; he’d been meaning to repaint it for the last four years. He would mow the grass just as soon as the lawn dried out, but for now the Yellow Mustard was slowly creeping ever-higher, halfway to his knees and sure to be taller when he showed up again tomorrow. Rain’s phantom speckled the sidewalk and his skin in tandem.
A withered reflection behind the door groaned when he stepped inside, shifting in the old brown armchair with the worn-down and fraying arms, looking older than it had just hours ago. His father had recently begun to sleep there, when walking to his bed had become too grand an effort. The carpet beneath his father’s feet was stained with every substance imaginable. For half a decade it’d increasingly become the solitary site of his life’s every moment, spent wiled away in front of an ancient television sat atop a rickety end-table drawn close to account for failing eyes. The numbers on the controller had worn away completely months ago.
He took a seat on the sunken sofa, next to a toppling stack of old newspapers, and sucked in a lungful of dust. A piece of him wondered if he’d begun to visit too often. “You alright?”
His father grunted, pulled in a labored breath. “Been better.”
(Fiction by Kayleen Burdine)