Betty's Feet

Outside, it’s hotter than a lightly toasted Pop Tart. Well, ok, maybe not that hot. It’s hot enough for a lightly toasted Pop Tart to burn the tip of your tongue. Well, ok, maybe burn it just a little, but not enough to burn it to the point where the burned bit bugs you all day. No, that’s probably still too hot for how hot it really is outside. 

My Daewoo’s dashboard display tells me it’s 84 degrees. Well, ok, it’s not really a Daewoo. Let’s say I’m too embarrassed to tell you what I really drive. We’ll go with that. Ok, Chuck? 

So it’s been 84 degrees toasty, if not toastier, all day; and that’s how toasty it was this afternoon when I pulled into Pop’s driveway, way down in the southern ‘burbs. 

But by the feel inside of Pop’s house, you’d have thought all of Death Valley had dropped in for a quick visit. Well, ok, not all of Death Valley, but as much of its climate that’ll fit into a modest, two story brick abode of the Midwest. 

If you’d been there today, you’d have heard Pop’s old HVAC beast grumble sourly at the idiocy of being fired up in August. The thing dates back to before the Leave It To Beaver era. 

Pop’s entire house, it’s basically a sweatbox. Every window is clouded up. The thermostat on the wall says it’s 88 degrees. That’s inside. Ok, sure, still not hot enough to toast a Pop Tart, but hot enough to toast me.* I’m a child of the ‘70s in more ways than one. 

This has got to be a mistake. Right? Pop and Betty must’ve wanted the AC instead. Maybe it broke down. Or maybe, one of them flipped the switch to HEAT and turned the dial all the way the wrong way. Sure. Why not? Pop’s done it before. 

And there he is, in the family room, lying across the sofa against the west wall of windows, which he is wont to do. Curiously, he never lies across the sofa situated against the east wall of windows, which faces the boob tube. Well, ok, said sofa sits a little north-east of the boob tube. It’s the recliner that faces the boob tube. That’s where Betty sits. It’s where she always sits. It’s got a lot of extra padding…and Betty doesn’t. (She’s the sort of woman who could use some. In fairness, I’m the sort of man who could lose some.) And, as she is wont to do, she’s staring down at the month-old crossword puzzle lying on her lap. 

“Crosswords and blueberries are good for the brain,” she likes to say. Her voice is a rattle squeak. (In fairness, mine is a muddy grumble.) But every day of the week, she’ll fill in a letter, or maybe an entire word, and then treat herself to a blueberry. At least the boob tube is off. 

And I try to do this calmly, with a smile. 

“Did’ja know the heat’s on?” 
“Betty was cold.” 
“It’s 84 degrees outside.” 
“Her feet were cold.” 

Ok, but: Betty’s feet are always cold. Lift her up in that recliner, carry her a few states west, set her down in Death Valley on its hottest day, and her feet still won’t warm up. It’s genetic. Her three brothers have the same incurable condition. 

So I switch off the furnace. I plant a small space heater at Betty’s feet. 

“Oh, I don’t need it,” she says. “I’m fine now.” 

Even so. 
It’s left there. 
Just in case. 

13 August 2004 

*[02/27/22: I suppose if you wait hours, or all day, 88 degrees will toast a Pop Tart. But I hope you’ll pardon me if I’ll wait until the zombie apocalypse to try it. I mean, come on. Who can wait all day for a Pop Tart? It’s pretty much an on-demand food, no?]

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