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  • I'm Just Getting to the Disturbing Part
  • Steven Church (bio)

At this point in my story, this much I know for sure: I'm way too big for a pink plastic Barbie pool. At six foot four and 250 pounds, even if I sit cross-legged and squeeze my knees together with my elbows, I can only manage to get my ankles and rear end wet.

When I sit down, most of the water rises up and spills out, soaking into the brittle grass. I flop around in the pool and realize—vaguely at first, in the way that you realize your fly is open only by the way people are staring at your crotch—that to a passerby I probably look like a hairless wildebeest rolling around in a puddle on the hot savannah, a tanker ship in dry dock, a square peg in a round hole. I look like a jerk just wasting water. But I don't care how I appear, because even a little water can save you in this heat.

Rachel points at me and laughs—one of those big toothy wide-mouth laughs. "Oh my God," she says, "you're hilarious."

It seems cruel. But she has room to laugh. She's tiny, about half my size. She fits in the pool just fine. It's positively luxurious for her. She floats like a water bug on her back, paddling her little legs around and mocking me. "That's just wrong," I say when she shows off by submerging her entire body. She splashes me playfully as she climbs out, and the water feels so cold on my skin that it burns, leaving a smattering of wet fire across my legs and belly.

After a few failed attempts at cooling off, I finally figure out that the only way for me to soak my whole body is to fill the Barbie pool to the brim, squat down beside it, and then fall into the water, letting it splash over me and out onto the grass. My best friend, Rob, has to do the same thing, but he's three inches taller than me and skinny, and he looks like a giant gawky heron, flailing in a backyard birdbath. [End Page 1]

We're out here because it's hot. And we need to be saved. This is what's important in the story.

* * *

Did I mention this: It's the middle of July, and all along the Front Range of Colorado we're suffering the sort of summer heat that burns when you inhale, singeing nose hair and scalding your sinus cavities; the particular brand of intense, abusive heat where your brain seems to expand inside your skull and you feel a little dumber, slower, and sleepier; the kind of heat that makes you see things funny—watery mirages, floating apparitions, ghosts of the everyday.

We have chosen this day, this hell-hot, broiling weekend, to make our final move down to the Front Range of Colorado from Breckenridge—high up in the Blue Valley at 9,000 feet, where the air is thin and cool, the kind of air they name deodorants after—Mountain Fresh, Cool Breeze, etc.

We loaded up the last loads of household junk and hauled it the 160 miles between apartments. We unpacked last night and sweated our way to sleep on the soft furnished mattress in our new apartment. We have no air conditioning. I tossed and turned all night, positioning and repositioning box fans to get the maximum whirlwind effect—all of it ultimately futile—and I finally rose at dawn, dug our coffee maker out of a box, and made a pot of dark French roast. I drank the whole thing and brewed another.

Rachel and I rented this one-bedroom place in Fort Collins, just half a block from the university where I will be attending graduate school for writing, and a short drive from another university where Rachel will begin her master's and certification in education. Rob, my best friend since high school, and his girlfriend, Jen, rented the apartment right next door to us. He's recovering from a botched...


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