“Housebakers” — An Excerpt from the book, The Year of the Mite

Kenny from Housebakers called me. “We cooked the house for ten hours, just to be sure,” he said.  They were packing up.  It was time to go home.

When I got home from work, Monica was making dinner. She had the fan part of the heating system running to cool off the house — the fan that blew air through the untreated heating ducts.

The house was hot.  So hot that you walked through neighborhoods of heat, touched furniture and it throbbed against your hand, stepped on the Spanish tile that was usually cool and it almost burned your heels.

The pumpkin left on the table from Halloween was melted on top.  The computer wireless was knocked out.  The glycerin soap by the bathroom sink looked like it always did, but when you reached for it, your fingers went right through.  The milk had soured in the refrigerator. But there were prickly sensations, almost bites or maybe bites.  Monica feared she was being bitten, hoped that her skin was just hyperreactive from all the scrubbing to get the bugs out of our pores.

They had brought the house to 60 degrees Centigrade, and pumped in hot air, hour after hour.  The ceiling paneling warped, a plastic cup left a red melted ring on a counter, the bananas turned solid black, and the bugs were still biting.

I lay down briefly on the bed. The surface had cooled but I could sense the hot core like the middle of the earth. When I rested the side of my face on the pillow, they climbed into my ear.  It was like I was a book they had been reading, and they remembered just where they left off.

“I can’t get out plates for dinner,” said Sophie, “they’re too hot.”

It was hot enough to wake the dead, like the poem about the gold miner Sam McGee in the Alaskan crematorium:

Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.

Every bug in the house woke up and said thanks.

It was time to run away.