Tag Archives: Cold

Who Loves Jerry?

Jerry had had his hair done like Jamie Jackson, but he wasn’t Jamie Jackson. Jerry’s hair was not like Jamie Jackson’s anymore. It was spread with the rest of him out across the rocks beneath the aptly named Suicide Ridge. Looking down there now, you couldn’t be blamed for having no idea Jerry had ever existed. “C’mon, Mike,” said Kenneth, “are you scared?”

Mike’s hair was plastered to his face underneath a knit cap. He shuddered under his thick jacket. “I don’t know, man, this seems like a bad idea.”

“Well, Mike,” Ken frowned “it’s dangerous, yeah, that’s kinda the point. How are ya gonna know if you’re like Jackson if you don’t find out?”

Mike crossed his arms against the cold, “but if I’m not like Jackson, I’ll be like Jerry.”

Ken rolled his eyes, “yeah, but it won’t matter then, will it? I mean, if God, er, or whoever he is, if he just lets you die, clearly you don’t matter.” Mike didn’t know what he was doing here. He’d been standing right here a week ago when Ken was convincing Jerry to jump. He asked the obvious question anyway, “Why don’t I matter?”

Ken kicked a rock off the off the edge of the cliff, as if just to see something fall off while he waited for Mike to jump. “Nobody cares about you, man! This guy, he controls everything! He won’t let Jamie Jackson die, and everybody knows it. If Jackson jumped off this cliff right now, a plane would come swooping down to catch him, or a wind would blow him so he falls in the ocean instead of on the rocks.”

“Or maybe he’d wake up in traction with a feeding tube down his neck.” Mike put his hands in his coat pockets.

“Naw, man. That’s boring. Jackson is clearly a main character. Who wants to watch a movie about some jerk who jumped off a cliff and ended up in traction?”

“You want to watch the movie about some jerk who jumped off a cliff and magically flew out to fall in the ocean.”

“Damn right. That’s what everybody in America tunes in to see every night when Jackson does his next death cheat.”

“People care about me.”

“What?”

“People care about me. You said nobody cares about me.”

“Who? Who cares about you?”

“My parents do, idiot. They love me.” Mike realized his parents would be devastated if he ended up like Jerry.

“Oh yeah?” a smile wormed its way across Ken’s face, like he’d just figured out how he was going to win this argument, “tell me more about these parents of yours.”

“What?” Ken knew Mike’s parents, “you know my parents.”

“I do,” agreed Ken, “What do they look like?”

“Uhh,” Mike was baffled at this line of questioning, but he tried to conjure an image of his parents in his mind. He pulled the cap further down over his head. It seemed to be getting colder by the minute.

Ken tapped his wrist, “Well?”

Both of Mike’s parents were redheads like him. “They’re both redheads, like me.”

Ken nodded, “Oh, is that right? Tell me more.”

This was infuriating, “What do you want to know, Ken!? What’s the point of this stupid quiz?”

Ken’s smile opened into a full malignant grin, “what are their names?”

Michael’s parents names were Linea and Hurton. “Linea and Hurton, is that what this is all about? You just want to stop calling them Mike’s mom and Mike’s dad?”

It was a lame insult, and Ken ignored it. “Your redheaded parents Linea and Hurton didn’t have names until just now. They didn’t have red hair, or even exist until I brought them up. They won’t exist if you jump off and don’t survive. Don’t worry about what they think. All that matters is the creator and what he has planned.”

Michael was genuinely fearful now. He had to admit it was frighteningly difficult to remember any more details about his parents. They just looked like floating red wigs in the air with little labels “Linea” and “Hurton.” “I-” he stuttered, “Who are you?”

“I’m Ken, you’ve known me since Kindergarten.” Michael had known Ken since Kindergarten. “How many people have you led to this cliff?” Michael asked.

“Hundreds. Or maybe you’re the first. Does it matter?”

It didn’t matter. “It doesn’t matt-” Michael started to say, but caught himself. He had to leave. He had to go back to his parents, his real, whole parents who existed in flesh and blood.

But what if they didn’t? His zero-degree rated coat was not warm enough for the weather now. The wind whipped at his face, his nose stung and burned with each breath of icy air he sucked in. A fog obscured everything more than a hundred yards away. There was nothing besides Ken, Mike, and this cliff.

Mike was right next to the cliff. He could have sworn he was not that close before. Just one step and he could know if he was real. If there was anyone out there who was real and really cared about him. If he wasn’t…

Ken was right behind him. He seemed to hear his thoughts, and Michael felt his hot breath on his ear, “it’ll all be over anyway.” Michael reached a foot out over the precipice.

“Don’t do it!” came a voice from the fog. Michael looked back and saw a light. Ken frowned, “You’ll never know!” he snarled. Michael looked at Ken. He took his foot back onto solid ground. “Maybe I do know,” he said suddenly as the light grew brighter and a bright blue uniformed police officer came out of the mist. The sudden squall had died down and Mike was comfortable in his heavy coat. He walked toward the police officer, keeping his eyes on Ken, “Maybe God, or whoever he is, just showed me he does care.”

Ken stood stock still on the precipice, glaring ominously at the police officer, who eventually gave up trying to convince him to get in the car to be taken home. The officer turned away and said “you should know the window on your side doesn’t close all the way, kid,” before leading him to the passenger seat. As Mike and the officer drove away, Ken disappeared into the fog.

In a sudden fit of terror, Mike realized he thought of the officer as just a bright blue uniform. He looked over and saw him completely. He had dark skin and a long, narrow face with a square jaw. His nose was prominent and looked like it had been broken in the past. He hadn’t shaved in a few days, and his bright blue uniform was worn and had a mustard stain next to the right pocket. He saw Mike staring at him, and he smiled. “Hey, kid, you know that God loves you, right?” Mike knew now that God loved him and wouldn’t let him come to harm. On the long trip home, though, a chill wind blew through the window of the cop car. The question remained in Mike’s mind.

Who loved Jerry?

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The Meeting

<- Continued from 54 Degrees

Upon Nate’s return, our house assumed an internal temperature of a balmy 63 degrees. One day, I came home to find it turned up to 65, which was too high. I asked Nate about the situation, and he told me that he was dreadfully ill, and needed the heat turned up or he, Nate paused for effect,  would certainly die.

I carefully weighed the cost of the extra two degrees against my roommate’s untimely demise and grudgingly agreed to let the temperature stay at 65 until J came home. That evening, true to his word, Nate lay curled on his bed in the fetal position, repeatedly calling my phone and leaving messages of him retching and hacking up his lungs and various other vital organs.

The next day I checked my messages and was duly satisfied that Nate had not been bluffing about his illness. I was particularly impressed when he demonstrated his delirium by leaving a message of six minutes of silence followed by “Hello, hello? Who is this?” and hanging up. Eventually, J told me, Nate had given up trying to get in touch with me and called him instead. J had gotten Nate’s medicine from CVS and rescued him from death’s icy clutches.

The next day, the temperature was back down to fifty-four degrees. Evidently there had been a meeting (with a quorum of two out of three household members). Nate would heat his room with a space heater, and to make up the electricity difference we would go below mine-strike level again in the rest of the house.

I put up with it for three days. Eventually when I was worried my fingers might snap off from being allowed to get so cold, I went to have a conversation with Nate, who was now feeling much better.

“Nate,” I said, somewhat reluctantly, “I think… I think it’s too cold.”

“You’ll get no argument from me,” said Nate.

“Yeah, I think we should have a meeting and decide the right temperature once and for all,” I said.

“Just turn it up,” Nate replied, rubbing his hands together to keep them from getting frostbite and making no attempt to hide that he was wondering when I would let him go back into his warm little room.

“No, no, no,” I insisted. “This thermostat has been changed without the input of the whole house too many times. This time we all agree.”

“Ok,” said Nate, “go get J, then.”

So I went and knocked on J’s door. When I told him I wanted to have a meeting about the temperature, J came down to the thermostat and said “What temperature do you want it at?”

This caught me off guard, so I said, “63, I guess.”

“Ok, ” J said. Without missing a beat he punched the thermostat back up to 63 and returned to his room. Nate, satisfied that the issue had been resolved, also left. “Good meeting, everyone!” I called after them both.

On my way up the stairs I remained baffled at J’s mysterious ability to be comfortable at any temperature. As I climbed the stairs and reached the landing, a blast of hot air from his room answered my question. Looking through a crack in J’s door, I saw a rack of open-air processors covering his entire desk. An enormous box fan distributed the heat from this collection around the room. Upon returning from the restroom, J explained that an enormous process running on those processors had been heating his room for the last few weeks. I remain convinced that J knows how to handle cold temperatures, but evidently it wasn’t what he was doing this time.

Now that Nate has his personal heater, and J has his superheated processors, we cover up the vents in their rooms and use the HVAC to heat the kitchen and my room. It seems to have ended the conflicts and confusion, at least.

Fifty-Four degrees

Part 2 of The Cold Apartment
(<- Read Part 1)

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Fifty-four degrees for a week was no sweat. Sure, I had to wear my coat around the house, but my bed, once it got warmed, was very warm indeed. It became quite difficult to leave it in the morning. My fingers seemed to move more slowly than usual when I took my gloves off to type in my room. I came to empathize more closely with cold-blooded animals who simply cannot move when the temperature drops too low.

J returned first. When I bragged that I had passed his challenge, he was surprised. He told me that he had never meant to challenge me. He thought that I was leaving for the break as well and that he was cooling what would soon be an empty house.  When Nate came back he told me that it’s illegal to heat a mine shaft less than 55 degrees, and miners have gone on strike for less than what I did to myself.

Now let’s fast-forward one year. J and Nate switched rooms and now Nate was beside the kitchen and J was next to me. With respect to  my newly proven ability to withstand cold temperatures, J made 54 the standard house temperature. Fortunately, the weather had not yet gotten that cold even outside.

Then the Polar Vortex hit. Duke Energy sent out an email asking us to all try and conserve energy, so J, as any good citizen would, did so. The catch was that he used the current temperature of our house – 54 degrees – as the baseline, so he put the temperature down to 48 degrees. Nate was to come home shortly, at which point J and I agreed that 48 degrees would not fly, so I was happy to do my part to help keep Duke Energy from being overwhelmed. I solemnly donned my long-johns,  sweater,  subzero-rated jacket with the hood up, three pairs of socks, earmuffs, and  ski-mask and shivered violently on my couch, secure in the knowledge that I was doing the right thing.

Next Week: Giving up on finding a shared temperature

(Continue to “The Meeting” ->)

The Cold Apartment (Part 1 of 3)

4253211430_d23dfe9df9_bOr as my girlfriend hears it, “The Coal Department.”

Tell me, readers, what strikes you as a reasonable temperature for one’s home in winter? 70 degrees? Maybe 65? What about 60? Now let me tell you, my friends, the long and complicated story of how my apartment’s baseline temperature made it down to forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit and stayed there for forty-eight hours. It is a story of challenge, of confusion, of communication and lack thereof. Most of all, it is a story of pride. Please sit, or start your treadmill desk, and get ready to hear the chilling tale of Western Manor Apartment K-6.

It all started last winter. Though a mild winter even for North Carolina standards, it did feature days that fell below comfort levels. It is a time of year when every group of roommates must come to an agreement regarding the degree to which they will take advantage of fossil fuels and energy to create unseasonable warmth in their place of residence.

Enter one Mr. Nathan Freeman, a Vermonter with an ineffable aversion to the climate of his youth.  When Nate first joined our apartment, he moved upstairs into the room next to mine. Shortly thereafter he removed the grate on his vent and positioned his desk such that he would spend his nights bathed in a column of hot air from the ceiling.  To accomplish this, he set our house to what I’m sure many of you would consider to be a reasonable 68 degrees.

Not me. Maybe it was my ascetic upbringing. Maybe it was my father who didn’t hesitate to use the word “evil” to describe an overutilization of resources of any kind. Maybe it was the fact that the particular thermodynamics of our apartment made a 68 degree thermostat set downstairs into a sauna in my room . In any case, I was not going to put up with such a temperature, and I told Nate as much.  Nate disagreed, leaving us at an impasse. Unable to resolve the matter between us, we had to reach out to the only affected third party.

Our enigmatic third roommate, who asked to be referred to only as “J”  lived next to the kitchen and spent most of his time in his little room so quiet that no one could possibly know if he was even home or not. You would be cooking dark and all alone in the house when the door behind you would creak open, sending a chill down your spine.  Before you could spin around and scream, J would step out, turn on the light, and say “hi, how’s it going?”

J was from Minnesota and, as it turned out, impervious to cold. This got me on the better side of majority rule and we set the temperature to 63. What I didn’t expect, though, was that later that week, when he and Nate were both leaving for the winter vacation, J would come to my room and tell me, “I’m going to be leaving for a while, so I’m setting the thermostat to fifty-four degrees. Is that ok?”

I didn’t have a very good sense of how hot or cold different specific degree temperatures were, but having so recently called upon the power of our icy landlord to settle my dispute with Nate, I knew when I was being challenged to put my money where my energy-conserving mouth was.  “Oh, definitely,” I huffed with the cockiest smirk I could muster, “54 is totally fine.”

“Ok,” said J, giving no hint on his face of what he was thinking. He closed the door. I heard his footsteps as he walked down the stairs and I imagined the beeping of the thermostat as he plunged it to a new low. I looked outside my window at the leafless trees and the squirrels huddling together against the bitter winds of winter. hmph, I grunted, I’m not afraid of the cold.

Next week: Sam lives in a house at 54 degrees for a week.
(Continue to Part 2 ->)