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Heat and home

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The Observer hates boring you, Dear Reader, by writing about the weather. But there comes a point in every Arkansas summer where the sun has baked our noodle to the extent the synapses and neurons and assorted circuitry upstairs just ain't firing. We reached that point recently. Thursday. Second and Scott. Varnished in sweat, armpits circled out to the accepted "bring me home now, Lord" circumference, squinting at the crosswalk sign, waiting for the orange warning hand to turn into a hopeful, striding stick figure so we could walk to our even more murderously hot car, when it happened. Full, heat-related neural shutdown, with a nigh-audible whirring from inside our pan-hot skull. At that point we were, to put it mildly, done with this shit. So we will remain until jacket weather.

The cars slid by in the wavering cartoon stinklines baking up from the pavement. Our shoe soles melted to the sidewalk. Down by the river, fishermen in asbestos suits were scooping pre-fried catfish straight out of the water. We considered putting our hands in our pockets to try to wait it out, but that would have only made it seem hotter. And so we suffered, waiting, wondering if we could be placed into a medically induced coma and wheeled into a meat locker somewhere until Halloween. In our despair, we thought of the interview we heard on National Pointyhead Radio recently about the havoc global warming could visit someday upon cities on the Eastern Seaboard, including the heat-related illness and deaths that might occur once summertime temperatures there begin routinely reaching the mid- to upper-'90s from time to time! Heavens to Murgatroyd! How will they STAND it, in their crinolines and worsted wool tailcoats?

Somewhere, a car honked. The sound instantly caught flame like a magician's flash paper and drifted sootily into the air. Soon, the crosswalk sign changed. We peeled our feet up off the concrete and bitterly shuffled on, a few precious seconds closer to the first frost.

The Observer's friend Amy of Arabia has been in town for a few weeks, she who has been teaching little children in the deserts of the United Arab Emirates on the other side of the world for the past two years, so far from The Observatory that we can't quite believe it. She came over last night, drank The Observer's whiskey from the top of the fridge and regaled us with tales of far-flung lands: her car's transmission falling out in the middle of the desert when it was 115 in the shade; the dashing beau who flew her by helicopter to a five-star hotel high above the bright lights and fed her strawberries and champagne like something out of a romance novel; the way she came to see eye-to-eye with the wild Bedouin boys she suffered for her first year there; the unadulterated joy she found in the care package we mailed her from Maple Street, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA, planet Earth, the box stuffed full of Hamburger Helper and sweet cornbread mix and packets of grape Kool-Aid, the last of which she said she mixed up in a jug and drank on the spot, dreaming of home.

In her time as an expat, Amy has vacationed in Nepal and Thailand and Italy, been to Katmandu and seen Everest, learned enough Arabic that she sprinkles it into her conversation now, then apologizes. The Observer smiles upon her, even when she is out of eyeshot. We stay in touch via Dr. Zuckerberg's Electrobook of Faces, but it's not quite the same. So it was good to see her back on Maple Street, even for a little while, and to hug her, and share our food and drink under the ceiling fan on the veranda.

She cried a bit, you know? Drank her old friends' whiskey and cried at the loveliness of being back home. We didn't fault her for that. That's what home is, after all: Even if it isn't the place you belong anymore, it's always the place that is still beautiful, even when you have seen what others might consider the most beautiful places in the world.

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