A heat wave bakes the pavement on Pine Street. Residents walk their dogs early in the morning or late at night, to avoid scorching the pads of their feet. Curtains and shades stay closed during the days. Thankfully, it is safe enough for the public library and churches to open their doors as cooling centers, providing refuge for anyone needing a respite.
Although it is distressing, it feels to our friends on Pine Street like a more normal type of crisis. Weird comparisons like this – a heat wave, a wildfire, a drought, a pandemic – float through their awareness. Which is worse? Which creates more hardship? Which impacts your life less than others?
It all depends on where you stand.
As Franny reads the forecast – at least nine days in triple digits, with temperatures dropping little overnight – her mind begins to organize a route for grocery deliveries. She ticks off names and addresses of folks who are likely still in fragile health, elders, those in old mobile homes which turn into ovens in the heat.
She considers calling David, guessing he’s thinking the same thing. Or checking with Leo, figuring he’s already started a phone tree of some kind.
Scrolling through her email, she sees the local food bank has already done the work. All they ask for now are donations, especially of cash.
Have we learned? Franny wonders. Are we a better community now than we were last year, when everything shut down?
She stands up, stretches, closes down her shades, turns on the box fan in her living area. Soon she’ll head over to the library, taking advantage of their air conditioning to keep her alert while she works on her new book.
In some way, she knows, the new book is about the question she just posed:
Are we better now?