80 - The Hum of the Air Conditioning

Submitted by Ken Watts on Wed, 05/16/2007 - 11:31

By then I had made it to the far end of William's street.

This gave me some satisfaction, but the two remaining blocks felt like more than I could do. I hobbled across the parking strip and leaned against a van to give my leg a rest.

The scent of the sea was stronger here than it had been in town, and it mingled nicely with the perfume of fresh-cut grass. The next lawn over had the sprinklers on—not a smart move for the middle of a hot day, but I was grateful for the mist that drifted my way.

The pain in my leg was a searing electrical current, mixed with a strange numbness. I was breathing heavily.

At the end of the street, people were arriving at William's party. He had valets at the curb—dressed in tuxedos—to take the cars and park them. There was a van in the driveway like the one Kels used for catering.

While I leaned there, catching my breath, the front door opened on the house with the sprinklers.

I stood up, quickly, in case the van I was leaning against belonged to whoever was coming out. I limped back to the sidewalk.

It was a young mother, with a toddler in tow. I recognized them immediately, and limped forward to say hello.

"Say, aren't you…" I said. "didn't I…?"

The mother pulled the kid closer to her.

"Oh, yes," she said, "you saved my son from that skateboarder the other night. Nice to see you. I'm afraid we're late."

She rushed the kid into their car.

As she fastened him into his car seat, the little squirt peered around her at me, then into his mother's face.

"You said he didn't save nobody from nothin'."

* * * * *

Julie had never noticed before just how silent Mr. Hogan's library was.

The four of them—Julie, her mother, Tim, and Mr. Hogan—had gathered there, just prior to announcing the engagement. Her mother was fussing with Julie's hair. Tim stood a few feet away, straightening his tie. Mr. Hogan paused from going over the contracts for the sale of the restaurant, to glance at his watch.

None of them said a word. Even the scent of the wood polish was heavy and silent.

She could see the waves breaking through the large picture window behind Mr. Hogan's head, but she couldn't hear them at all. She knew her heart was pounding in her chest, but she couldn't hear it either, or even feel it.

The only sound was the soft, almost imperceptible hum of the air conditioning.