I’m going to kill somebody. I mean it, if this heat doesn’t break for just five freaking minutes I’m going to do some serious damage to whoever looks at me sideways (Are you lookin’ at me? Are you?!). And if Rick saunters into this steam bath of a kitchen and says one dumb thing I swear to God he’ll be looking cross-eyed at a fork waggling between his brows.
I can now understand all those studies that prove more murders occur during periods of high temperatures than at any other time of year. Ellen G. Cohn, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at Florida International University, who has co-authored several papers on the correlation between weather and crime, can even pinpoint degrees Fahrenheit, a boiling point, if you will, that’ll set you off on a murderous rampage. That would be in the mid-80s. The good news is that there’s a temperature at which it becomes too damn hot to move, let alone off someone. In his research, James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University, puts that high point — the “Ah, screw it, I’ll take a nap instead of a knife to your back” — at 90 degrees. For more than a week the mercury has been nudging 100 degrees, with humidity not far behind. And the power’s gone off three times in as many days. No A/C, no fans, no breeze. I’m sluggish, irritable, hair-trigger angry, but that wily Fox is probably right. I’m too damn hot to throttle anyone.
Why did I come back here again?, I ask myself for the hundredth time since touching down three weeks ago. Our annual sojourn to Mexico came late this year (a sad passing, a happy birthday), and our range, for the first time, is limited to San Pancho, that funky little pueblo about an hour’s drive north of Puerto Vallarta. Our duties, as our time, would be reduced this summer: The dogs, Kahlua and Rufus, made the trip to California with Bill, leaving only the cats, Valentino and “wild” child Pico, in our care. We imagined that, as in previous years, V, would spend his nights on the hunt and his days in siesta; P, would sneak in, hiss at no one in particular, steal a bit of kibble and slip back out in a blur. We were tempted by visions of endless, carefree days to do as we pleased in a tropical paradise.
Throughout last fall and winter we reached a pet-minder milestone, that pinnacle of prominence to which all critter-sitters strive to ascend: we became in demand. People were seeking us out, attracted by our flawless track record and exceptional references. We could have stayed in the Great White North and been quite happy busily tending to a veritable zoo of creatures great and small. But the lure of the lowlands is strong — memories of balmy southern nights in the company of buenos amigos, lazily swaying palm trees, sparkling sea, feet-in-the-sand cantinas — all seduced us into returning to Mexico for a fourth year.
Then came the heat.
Those enchanting entrapments quickly vaporized in the shimmering sun. By noon on our first day the hot, heavy air wrapped itself around me in a loveless embrace. My scalp prickled with perspiration, my back became a rolling riverbed of sweat, and my legs peeled off the leather couch like a ripping bandaid. My shirt stuck to my chest in an unintentional, decidedly unsexy, wet T-shirt contest, and mosquitoes drilled polka dots into my skin. I cursed my faulty fair-weather memories and began furiously plotting my return to the fresh, breathable Pacific Northwest.
Then a funny thing happened. Big white fluffy clouds slid in front of the sun, a gentle breeze cooled my forehead and a soft rain began to fall. A pod of dolphins played tag in the surf while a squadron of pelicans glided inches above the waves. I felt a furry nudge against my knee and looked down to see Pico, the don’t-you-dare-touch-me-or-you’ll-regret-it wild cat, rubbing against my leg. I reached down and scratched his head. He didn’t hiss, he didn’t bite. Instead, he leaned in. And began to purr. Now I remember why I came back here. It’s cool.