“Val, you have to speak up; I can barely hear you,” Kit said.
“Is this better?” I pressed my cell phone closer to my ear.
“Huh? I still can’t— What’s that noise in the background? Where are you? Are you at the airport?”
“No, I’m at home.”
“You sound as though you are on the runway at O’Hare.”
I moved across my tiny living room and switched off one of the fans. “Better?”
I switched off the second fan on the opposite side of the room, and the mini tornado that was forming over my coffee table instantly ceased. “How’s that?”
“Okay, now I can hear you. What are you doing over there?”
“The AC is out in the building, so I have a couple of fans going—”
“Why didn’t you say so? Pack a bag and come over here; what are you waiting for?”
I knew Kit would offer a retreat to her spacious air-conditioned home, but I was reluctant to leave. There was a new British murder mystery on Netflix that I planned to binge and a carton of leftover chop suey in my fridge to finish off. Kit neither binged nor finished off Chinese leftovers. “I’m good, really; thanks anyway. It’s not that hot in here.” I had moved to my galley kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and planted myself in front of it. The Lucky Wok carton sat alone on the middle shelf, happy to share its cool environment, urging me not to leave the apartment.
“Val, it’s the middle of July, for heaven’s sake. You’ll get heatstroke or something—”
“Nah, I think I’ll be okay. They are working on fixing it. Gotta go; I’ll call you later.” I had no idea who “they” were, and was even less certain that anyone was working on the problem. I had called the building manager and left two voice mails, but at seven on a Saturday night, I was not really expecting a return call. Or a cool breeze.
At least the first episode of my British murder mystery opened to a gloomy and chilly-looking scene, somewhere in England. Since I had turned both fans back on, I was forced to use the subtitles rather than listen to the actual dialogue. I didn’t bother heating my chop suey, but even without the benefit of the microwave, the sticky glob was nearly as delicious as it had been at lunch yesterday.
Two hours later Kit called again, but I switched off the fans before answering.
“Is it back on?” she began.
“Yep,” I lied. “All good now.”
“Really? Because it sounds hot over there.”
I laughed. “How does hot sound, Kit? I’m telling you, I’m as cool as a turnip.”
“Oh, for crying out loud. You’re delirious. Larry!” I heard her yell to her husband. “Val has heatstroke.” Apparently, she considered this very common vegetable mix-up proof of my high-temperature-induced dementia.
“Val?” It was Larry. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Truly.”
“Thought so. Enjoy your evening.”
He hung up, and I wiped the sweat off my brow with a soggy tissue. When I returned to my program, I was happy to see a British policeman brush a dusting of snow off his shoulder with a gloved hand. A black-and-white dog sat silently by his side, patiently listening to his master’s wise words. “Looks like it’s gonna be a cold night, boy.”
Really, Chief Inspector, or whoever you are? What was your first clue?