September 4, 2011

It was just after four o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon. The mailman must have come by now. I was expecting a check for one of my boring magazine articles, and with any luck the Victoria Secret catalog would be there as well. I slipped on my TEVAs – I call them my Jesus shoes – and opened the front door, stepping out into 115 degrees and blinding Arizona sunlight.

Halfway to the mailbox, I realized I’d forgotten my sunglasses. Worse, I was still wearing my cheater glasses from Walgreens. There they were, perched on the end of my nose, making me look like an old fart. They had a way of magnifying the sun’s glare such that it felt like my eyeballs were cooking in their sockets, so I pushed them back to the top of my head and kept walking. It was damned hot.

The sun was shining on the front of the mailboxes and I burned my arm reaching inside. I’m surprised the paper hadn’t caught fire, it was that hot. Sadly, there was no check, no lingerie ads, just a $317 electric bill, a circular from Basha’s advertising half-price hot dogs, buy-two-get-one-free yogurt, and two bucks off 12-packs of double-roll toilet paper. Oh, and there was one of those “Have you seen me?” fliers with a coupon for fifteen bucks off tire rotations and a grainy picture of a kid resembling a lost, buck-toothed Ashton Kutcher.

Despite the heat, I took the long way back and walked around the pool, just to make sure there weren’t scantily clad girls needing assistance. But there were only two guests there: an old fat guy floating on a huge, flowery-pink inflatable ring, and the sunbathing bag of bones I’ve come to think of as Ethiopia-lady, for her pre-cancerous tan and the way her suit hangs off her alarmingly skinny ass. I know that’s not a nice thing to say. I can’t help it.

I crossed past the abandoned and Sahara-like volleyball court and was walking down the long sidewalk between Building 4 and Building 6 when I noticed this kid was following me. The flap, flap, flap of his sandals echoed between the buildings, and I could feel his beady eyes staring at the back of my head. Boy, kids these days are really weird.

“Mister?” A thin reedy voice. I tried to ignore him.

“Mister?” he repeated. Maybe he would go away.

“Hey, Mister!” he yelled.

I rounded on him. “What? What do you want, kid?”

It was just then that I sensed something was wrong. The way he was looking at me, and there was this funny smell in the air. My head was hot, and I don’t mean the heat of an Arizona sun in July. It was unnaturally, cataclysmically hot.

“Um…there’s smoke comin’ off your head, Mister,” he said, and raised a skinny arm to point.

Jesus, my hair was on fire! My cheater glasses – they must be like twin magnifying glasses on the top of my head. The kid stared at me open-mouthed as I screamed and ran for the swimming pool, the sudden breeze of my sprinting 210 pounds fanning the small blaze on my head into a miniature forest fire. With coupons and utility bill in hand, I hit the water at full speed, capsizing the fat guy in the pink floaty and inundating Ethiopia-Lady in her plastic lawn chair with a small tidal wave.

Luckily my cell phone was at home. It’s been in the pool once already this summer, and that was enough. That was several weeks ago; my hair has mostly grown back now. All that’s left of the burned patch is a little bald spot. But I haven’t been to the mailbox or the pool since. I think I’ll go paperless.

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