Sure was hot on Saturday. Couldn’t wait for the sun to set. Then the air would cool, a breeze would stir. It was, after all, May. Saturday was the first really warm day. The night would have to cool off.

After a day of gardening and the first trip of the season to the wonderful Rehm Pool, sleep sounded good. A cool pillow, a couple of fans. Ought to be cooling off any minute now. Flip that pillow, oh, there’s the cool spot. Lie perfectly still. Thrashing about would only add heat to the bed. Get rid of the blanket. That will do it.

Sleep came in fits and more fits. Then about three in the morning our daughter awoke, strolled into our room and reported that her room “was way too hot.” Arm on her shoulder, steering her back to her bed. “It’ll cool off any minute now, honey. Look, your curtains are hanging perfectly still. That means the breeze is about to come. Very soon.”

Dang, if her room wasn’t hotter than ours. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I’ll get you another fan.” The odd, barefooted, middle of the night trip to the basement, waiting to step on something sharp and rusty. Didn’t happen, and, my, was the basement cool. Passing thought of dragging pillows and blankets to the cellar. Too many spiders. Too much junk. Find the fan, take it back upstairs. Actually found an easy place to plug it in. Fan did marvelous job of stirring hot, muggy air, bouncing it off the lavender walls and letting it resettle like molten lava across the room.

“Sleep tight, dear. Big day tomorrow. We all need to sleep.”

Knowing the night was doomed, I returned to my airless sleep chamber. Perhaps I slept. I have the vague sense of my daughter’s return and my wife’s departure. Mary and I share all the hopeless tasks of parenting.

Somehow it was now 5 a.m. The house was still stirring, more than could be said for a breeze. The damned cat was making its meowiest sounds, the ones that sound almost like a baby. The dog thought it was time for breakfast.

I knew, in my totally failed way, that it was time for air conditioners. I don’t like to put in air conditioners in May. I don’t like the humming. I don’t like the electric bills. And I especially don’t like to do it in the middle of the night.

And yet I did. Yes, there was cursing involved. I said nearly unimaginable things when I actually dropped the air conditioner out my window and onto the front porch roof, 15-inches below. I said more things I wasn’t proud of when I crawled out the middle window, in my pajamas, to hoist the unit back into the window.

By the time I returned to the basement to find some scrap of wood to stuff under the air conditioner I was into the absurdist aspects of this endeavor. I even smiled. And when the switch was switched and the units spurted to life with a belch of dust and magical cool air, I was almost content.

Slept like a baby for, oh, 90 minutes. Then the Sunday papers hit the porch, the dog was now certain it was breakfast time, and Mariah wandered back down the hall looking cool, calm and collected. “So, what are we doing today?!” she said. And I knew that sleeping in was not one of the options for any of us.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...