From the moment I opened the front door into my apartment on Friday evening, I could tell I was stepping into a bubbling brew of insanity. Immediately I felt a Backdraft-esque wall of heat press itself against my face, as if trying to rush past me out the door. I soon realized it was actually the spirit of fiery death backing its ass out of my apartment, moving through me in search of another soul to lay low.
I surveyed the scene. Dogs sprawled out on the floor, tongues out and breathing in rapid convulses of fur, weakened and unable to rise to meet their master. In truth both animals looked like a pair of fried eggs on a hot sidewalk. Sweat began to bead up on my brow in seconds as my eyes moved over the living room.
I slammed the door shut, and that was then I heard the deafening silence. The low hum of a compressor fighting the roasting temperatures outside was missing. The panting of my dogs accentuated it, akin to the sound of someone ripping a truly epic fart on a still night. I walked briskly to the thermostat and lowered my face down directly parallel to the controls and saw nothing but lies. 72 degrees. I flicked both of the plastic switches made available to me on this $2.99 thermostat every which way its designers could have envisioned, and then I’m sure in some ways they had not. I tried a logical approach to the problem; perhaps if i flicked the switch furiously back and forth between hot (death) and cold (life). Surely that would wake up the dormant electronic brain of my a/c unit.
Before I knew it, i was pushing up and down on the controls in a rhythm and yelling at it, “come on, damn it. live! fight!” But the patient was already brain dead, staring back at me with its unflinching dead LCD eye glazed over and set on “72 degrees.” I threw up my hands so dramatically that they slapped against my sides on the way down. I took off my pants on the spot, and turned around, meeting the misery of my dog’s face looking up at me as if to say “Fix this, human. Fix this with your human magic. I cannot shed my skin as easily as you, hairless one.”
At this point the gravity of the situation began to take hold of my mind. Hot. Dogs. I rushed to the closet and pulled out a couple of fans. I set them up hastily and pointed them directly at the wretched animals, who each managed to wag an appreciative single thump of their tail against the floor. I could tell this wouldn’t be enough.
I looked at the clock. 5:58pm. The apartment office would close in two minutes. I flew out the door and bounded out towards the office in what probably looked like someone escaping from a mental hospital, gasping in airfuls of freedom. As I approached the office, I could see the lights in the office were off. I cursed, loudly. But then, for one glorious moment I saw a crack of light flash from the office door as it began to open. It turned out to be the bright, shining, caucasian ass-crack of the maintenance man’s exposed rear end peeking out above his jeans, reflecting the vibrant sun as he walked backwards out of the office, locking the door behind him. I rushed up and startled him.
"Hey man! My A/C is busted." It was then I saw it. As the man turned towards me, i found myself looking at his shirt. A giant penguin smoking a cigarette with one flipper and holding a beer in the other, with an icy blue tie-dye background behind him. No text, no words. Just the penguin, just looking back at me. After a moment I realized a voice was coming from out of the penguin, it’s features perfectly rounded and filled out from the underlying shape of the maintenance man’s gut. The effect was hypnotic. As the man spoke, the penguin moved in perfect synchronicity with his every word. I found myself talking directly to the penguin, and before long the penguin and I had parlayed the use of a temporary a/c wall unit. It was a lot like that scene in Total Recall where Arnold is talking to Quato. I realized I was in the presence of the Lord of Cool.
Once we had finished exchanging words, the Penguin Lord vanished inside his layer for a few minutes, emerging with the a/c unit in the hands of his vessel, the burly mustachioed and amazingly untanned maintenance worker. I followed him to my apartment feeling a gentle cool breeze trailing behind the lord of cool, mingling with the smell of menthol chewing tobacco. As we got back and hooked up the unit, no words were spoken. The dogs tails began thumping again against the floor as the penguin went about his work, beating a primal , almost ritualistic string of thuds and thwaps against the ground. As the ceremony reached it’s climax the penguin turned to me. “Ok, I think we’re ready to flip this baby on.” I nodded deeply, knowingly, as I moved my body directly in front of the A/C’s vent. The man flicked the a/c unit into the on position.
I can only describe the sensation as being reborn. The gust of cold air was a baptism to a new reality. I closed my eyes and managed only a quiet “thank you” to my new god. I’m not sure how long I stood standing there in that chilled embrace, but when I opened my eyes, the penguin and his keeper were gone. Only the dogs were there, standing next to me, revived. I looked out the window. No one walking away.
The next day I went to the office to thank the maintenance man, who I gradually understood was not a vessel, but just a really nice guy who has wears awesome t-shirts, but he was nowhere to be found. I asked around and was directed to the maintenance office, where I found a note, scrawled shakily in pencil on his door “apt 121 - a/c repair needed. tenant doesn’t wear pants.” Needless to say, my a/c has not yet been repaired.