Saturday, August 22, 2009

In the heat of a sultry Carolina night (anything but)

The finely dressed man walked in quiet solitude down the dark sidewalk listening to the sounds of the crickets and cicadas his steps keeping cadence with their chirping and humming. Dressed in a long sleeve white shirt with a black tie, white oxford shoes, white linen pants with red suspenders, carrying a matching white linen suit coat draped over his right arm the weather was starting to take a toll on the man, staining his expensive clothes.

The absence of even the lightest of breezes along with the oppressive heat and humidity left over from the day lent a heaviness to the still night air. Taking a moment to stop and fish out a handkerchief from his pants pocket to wipe his brow the man looked around at his hometown, Saint Matthews, South Carolina. This portion of town was slowly falling asleep for the night, earlier though the tree lined sidewalks, manicured lawns, and grand porches were a hive of early evening activity as people left the confines of stifling homes for the relative comfort of porch swings, ice tea, and ice cream seeking some relief from the summer weather. Now most everyone had returned inside to prepare for bed despite the lingering heat leaving the man alone with his thoughts about what he would say to the woman he was looking for.

Moving on the man smiled several minutes later as he spied the place and person he was looking for swinging on porch bench swing in the dark. He was approaching the woman from behind and as he came closer he could vaguely hear her humming a song that had been popular during World War Two and was still popular even now four years after the end of the war. The lady could be seen alternately sipping something from a tall glass only to set it down on a small table beside her and pick up an oriental hand fan and quickly stir up the air around her and wiping sweat from her face, neck, and the upper part of her shoulders.

The man made it all the way to the steps leading up to the porch before he announced himself. "Savannah, even in the dark you are still the most beautiful woman in town." He said walking up the steps uninvited.

Savannah was startled to say the least, knocking over the table next her sending the glass to the floor below her and shattering. Ignoring the glass she stepped over to the light switch quickly turning on the porch lights mounted next the front door.

"Gerald," she gasped, " where have you come from? When did you get into town?"

Gerald ignored her questions and gazed upon the only woman he had dreamed of since he left town to enlist the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. She was dressed in a feather light dress that hung off her bare shoulders. He was amazed that the heat had left a layer of sweat that actually made her skin glisten in porch light. "I just got into town this evening after arriving in Charleston yesterday morning. I bought a car and drove up to find you."

"To find me?" Savannah asked unable to believe he would, or could do such a thing. "Where did you get the money to buy a car Gerald? I know you were decorated by President Truman himself but when you left town for the war you were penniless and my father had already said you could not court me when you returned."

"Well," Gerald began smiling not only because he expected those questions but because he had good answers for them, "after the war I went to work with a buddy from Texas and we hopped a freighter down to Venezuela to work with an oil firm down there. Two years later we struck it rich, finding the largest deposits of oil ever in that country."

The conversation quickly took a far different turn than the one Savannah expected as soon as she recognized her visitor. Both ignored the unrelenting heat with Gerald telling his story about his years after the war and Savannah explaining how her father thought of her as a hopeless spinster rejecting the advances of the town's only, but grossly fat, doctor.

"Its getting very late Gerald," Savannah said hours later, " people will surely talk if we stay out much later. My father is up in Greenville for several more days with me all alone having strange visitors, it's just not done. " A coy smile danced across her face and it was then that Gerald took hold of her face and kissed the lips he had only dreamed of since he was a boy working with his father at the cotton gin Savannah's daddy owned.

The two, caught up in their passion, ignored the secret eyes that preyed upon them from neighboring houses since the porch light had been turned on and not so slowly made their way inside to Savannah's bedroom. The light inside her room was off but a newly risen moon shining from her open window offered a faint light as Gerald watched Savannah loosen her dress and then see it crumple to the floor. Her bare body, glistening in the silver moonlight, excited him beyond his understanding and as she came closer reaching for his.........

Yeah, breaking the story here since it was only to prove a point. You might be asking why am I writing about something as esoteric and outright strange, for me, as sultry Southern nights?

Many a Southern writer has used the hot and humid nights we have here in the South to paint a picture of passion, love, or to put it far more coarsely to allow the male and female characters to bump uglies. The only problem is that Southern nights are, for the vast majority, anything but an inspiration for passion or even simple sex. We all huddle in quiet desperation around the air conditioning after a long humid day trying to feel clean and dry in spite of the dampness that hovers like a sticky fog outside.

I got home Wednesday to find Dragonwife in quite the Southern tizzy over the non functioning central air unit. It was about 5:00pm and the thermostat showed it was at least 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the living room and my wife looked like she was about to melt. My son, Darth Spoilboy, was having his fourth shower since returning home from the first day of the new school year. My daughter, Miss Wiggles, was the only one who did not directly complain about the heat other than the fact Spoilboy would not come out of the bathroom.

My arrival home did bring my son out of the bathroom with him demanding that I crawl underneath the house and conjole the delinquent unit back into service. Actually my first impulse was to ignore him and just get out of my work clothes but my wife's behavior was rapidly approaching meltdown point and I figured her semi-snobbish Virginia upbringing would not preclude her from knocking me aside the head with her fancy nonstick frying pan.

I was able to talk them into allowing me to change into a pair of old jeans and t-shirt first since my employers is rather funny about the uniforms they rent us. However, I was soon crawling around underneath the house to the two parts of the central air unit placed there, the compressor and air handler. My resulting inspection showed that not only had several pipes coming out the compressor that had cracked with a near certainty that all the coolant had long leaked away but also that the air handler was covered in mold to the point that any return to cooling the house was next to impossible.

We quickly called a professional, my experience in heating and cooling is thin to say the least, and as I expected the properly trained service technician told us that both the compressor and air handler would have to be replaced. Now the twist in this story has to do with our home warranty insurance. Supposedly if we have a major breakdown of some part of the house be it the washing machine, stove, or as in this case the air conditioner an approved service representative would come swooping in either to fix the issue or supply us with a replacement for a flat fee of sixty dollars no matter how big an issue.

This guy declared that they would replace the compressor for the flat fee but the air handler would not be covered due to the mold and would cost us $3500. Figuring he was on the up and up we soon conferred with his supervisor, a lady with a deep Southern accent, to set up the installation of the new central air unit. The lady was desperate to schedule us for the next day, Thursday, but both Dragonwife's and I had job conflicts that would not allow it so it was scheduled for Friday

While both my wife and I were at work the next day we both independently found out that the $3500 dollars we would be paying for just the air handler would normally cover the replacement of both components. After my wife and I talked over the situation I quickly called the company that was going to replace the unit and canceled their Friday installation. I explained that we found out that we could replace both components for the price of what they were charging us just for the air handler. All I got back from the Southern lady supervisor was a "damn" that I took to mean she knew the jig was up on their back handed swindle.

Since then sleeping at night has not been easy. Far from indulging in sultry nights of passion we all have retreated to the room above the garage that has its own, smaller, air conditioning system. Two small pallets for the kids and a queen-sized air mattress for Dragonwife and myself all hoping that the laboring wall unit does not crap out like the main system under the house. Getting my clan quiet and asleep, especially with the dog Sparky and the cat Spock still play fighting, has taken on many aspects of a Simpsons episode.

The good news is that after receiving several estimates from local, and reputable, dealers a new central air unit should be working sometime Tuesday. Total price, after the tax rebate, will be $3500 with them replacing the duct work underneath the house as well.

That is if I can get the day off, of the three man team I am a part of responsible for hospital sterilizers one of the guys is already on vacation and our boss has lately been reluctant to having just one guy covering the entire hospital. I will have a talk with him Monday morning about taking the next day off, if I have a problem with him I will just have my wife bring her non-stick frying pan and have her talk with the man.


sunshine said...

Well... Damn! The story was just gettin good!! I wonder what Savannah was reaching out for.... :) I was already for some hot, steamy, southern -style sex!

I hate humidity. I could never live where you do. I would literally die. Literally.
We had a couple of bad weeks here but it seems to be over. For now.

I really want air conditioning. Our furnace needs to be replaced within the next few years and husband has promised me we will get central air then.
I hope you can get your time off to get the new unit installed.
Perhaps you'll feel like picking up where you left off, with the story. ;P


MadMike said...

Beach I have replaced a couple of central air/heat pump units and have never been able to replace one, including duct work, for less than about 6K, and this is in a couple of locations, not just the outrageously expensive Florida Keys. You did "good."

Heat Lamps said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Beach Bum said...

Sunshine: I might just finish that story. Right now it is Monday night and the new unit will be install tomorrow. But the heat is still oppressive and there ain't a bit of breeze outside.

You do need air conditioning though with global warming kicking into high gear.

MadMike: Given the cost of living here $3500, after the tax rebate is about average. But right now I would about sell my wife for a cool night's sleep.

Heat Lamp: Don't pull this unauthorized capitalistic crap on my site again.

Beach Bum said...

Glad it's not just the Brits & Irish that complain about the weather...steamy story

Randal Graves said...

Man, I hear ya. Look, I don't know anyone that feels sultry and sexy when you're still dripping sweat and choking on humidity at 11pm.

Have you thought about hiring some babes to wave giant palm leaves?

Colonel Colonel said...

it's never really humid for that long up here in the summer, but this summer it's been non-stop, pea-soup-thick humid for about four weeks, and hot as well. Yechh. Hope your air conditioning is working again tonight!

Beach Bum said...

The True Beach Bum: One little tidbit I forgot to put in the nonfiction part of the post is that there is a rather large group of people that hold the opinion that if, for some reason, air conditioning had not been invented most Americans would still be living in the northeast and Midwest.

It was the heat and humidity that kept Southern life much slower paced than the industrial north. With the invention of air conditioning Northerners rushed to get away from the snowy winters.

I will tell you this that many long time old locals think it is funny as hell to hear newcomers speak about how tough the summers are down here as they rush from their air conditioned car to their air conditioned condo.

Randal: My guess is that the sexy feeling only comes after the stripping off of all clothes to roll around on a blanket. Something that after long years of marriage I have only the vaguest memories of and honestly think it just might have been my imagination.

Colonel: As of 3:00pm today the new unit was switched on and his now cooling the house. I honestly feel like I did after a couple of weeks in the field when I was in the army.

Vigilante said...

This story reminds me of a week ago, tomorrow: I was trying to get my Trophy Wife to turn in our clunker (1995 Infinity j-30) into Toyota, who was closing the door of accepting clunkers at 5pm. We had just gotten the clunker back from the car repair shop after putting $600 into it just to get it to clunk 15 minutes to the dealer. I was at work when it came time for my wife to drive it to its happier hunting grounds but it failed to start. She had to arrange a jump-strart to get the clunker-funker (if you get my meaning) started. We made it in the endzone with 5 minutes to spare.

Oh yes, did I leave out the yelling match I had with the repair guy at the auto shop the previous day? He was scolding me for turning the J-30 into clunkerdom. I fooking asked him if he wanted to buy it off my hands for $5,000, as is. When he mumbled something like he already had too many cars, I accused him of wanting to keep my car-cass on the streets because it was just a fat cash cow for him.

Trophy Wife had to separate us; otherwise my Doberwoman who was witnessing this set-to would have dealt herself in with unpredictable consequences.

lime said...

yuck! having lived in the tropics i full well understand the way the sultry weather did NOT work as a libido enhancer. here's hoping the AC repairs go quickly and well.

Middle Ditch said...

I knew what Savannah was reaching out for ... The air conditioning of course!

My it is hot where you are. It's freezing where I am.

Anyway, there are still some honest tradesmen out there. We don't have air conditioning but we do have a loo with an old fashioned chain that broke one night.

We envisaged a new cistern, a smaller basin to get said cistern in (we have a very small bathroom) and cost spiraling out of control. Anyway, new lad on the block repaired the whole thing for about £40. He could have easily lied but he did not.

Marja said...

Just visiting to read your passionate story with great images.
Quite a contrast with the technical problems of air conditioning. In NZ we hardly get temperatures above 30 degrees which I rather like.
and eh well yes tell me what did inspire you to write the story in these bad circumstances

sunshine said...

Just popping in to say "Hi". Hope your air conditioning is up and working for you again!

Beach Bum said...

Vigil: The only car mechanics I trust are Click and Clack from NPR's "Car Talk".

Lime: You know I was slightly speculating on the whole sultry nights enhancing the libido figuring it was something from literary fiction anyway. Hell, after two kids and 15 years of marriage an actual working libido for my wife is something from fiction. I know, too much information, but after several beers I figure what the heck.

Middle Ditch: the guy who ended installing the new unit great. He was on time, quick, and had no issues during the installation.

I can relate on the loo issues with plumbers. Because they are so expensive I have long since learned to do much of my own.

Marja: If the forces of republican fascism force me out of the United States I may have to settle down under either in Australia or New Zealand. The cooler air of NZ appeals to me. Know of any need for hospital sterilizer technicians?

Sunshine: Its been crazy and I still can't get rid of my son's friends. They are still hanging around playing video games. Heck, one brought his girlfriend and all she did was watch them play.