I know better than to set off alone in this sort of heat, at this time of day, and to top it all off, to do so on a path I know is a little more than dangerous. I get outside and it’s pushed up to 93 degrees with humidity way past the point of pleasure. There’s something to be said for doing things other people tell you not to do because it’s dangerous. I’m going to do the better part of seven miles in the heat and I’m going to do it in less than two hours. It’s a quarter ‘til one in the afternoon.
There’s a short story forming in my head and I like it. I have no idea what it is, mind you, but I know it’s a good one, like the package that arrived yesterday with the Savannah Mug inside. The Savannah Mug was sent by my older sister and it holds enough coffee to get me through a good short story, but I have no idea who this one is, yet. It’s forming, forming, forming…
My entire body begins to sweat as the heat soaks through my clothes. It’s hard to breathe in the heat but that’s normal at first. The body has to adjust to the idea of the environment being nearly as hot as the body. The body orders sweat to be pumped out of the pores and I can feel it begin. There is no breeze. There is no shade. I can feel the heat soaking into my clothes and I’m glad for the protection.
Hamilton. Howard Hamilton. As a kid his father was a banker and he wanted to grow up to be a banker. He liked being Howard Hamilton II. No, wait, it’s Hamilton Howard, yes, that’s better. Because as much as he is a part of his father’s world, even as a kid, his own world, as a kid, is pretty wretched. Hamilton is nothing if not a long range planner, even as a kid. He makes friends with much larger kids and buys them candy so they’ll protect him from the school bully, Travis Peacock. Travis hates Hamilton because he’s rich and makes fun of him. He calls him “Hamster” and regrettably, it catches on.
There’s a ditch running across the path at the first mile mark and he gives me the choice of trying to cross it or going around it. It’s choked with briars and thorny vines so I pick a path dead through the middle of it. It’s far too early in this walk to be dodging hard tasks. The idea of forging ahead appeals to me in a very strong way. One down and six to go, and the heat is holding steady at 93 degrees. I can feel the sweat now; it is the lubrication for hard work and hard walks.
Hamilton falls in love in the third grade with Nancy Pauline Stanton. She’s pretty, shy, and unfortunately for Hamilton, lives on the same road as Travis. In an event that defines the relationship of two boys, Hamilton pays two much older kids to beat Travis senseless. Undaunted even after the beating, Travis punches Hamilton in the lunchroom and gets expelled. The rivalry begins.
There’s a part of the trail that’s covered in ruts and knee deep weeds. The weeds hold heat close to the ground and as I walk through them they release it. There’s a strong botanical smell to the walk now as if a lawn in hell was being mowed. The noxious insects, the gnats, the stinging flies, the six legged creatures who really like the tastes of salty flesh, yes, they are all there waiting for me. I have to slog through all of that to get to a clearer part of the trail but mile two falls behind me. My feet hurt from the unevenness of the trail and I know my knees will speak with me about this matter tomorrow morning. There’s a certain amount of weirdness next as there is a farmer who uses this part of the trail to move his equipment to one field to another. It’s going to be very rough and very uneven.
In High School, the gap between Hamilton’s wealth and Travis’ poverty is beginning to become even more clear. Nancy Pauline likes both boys but she also like riding to school in a car rather than taking the bus or walking. Hamilton picks her up and smirks as he passes Travis waiting in the cold at the bus stop with the other kids. The first date arrives with Hamilton’s family and Nancy Pauline’s family all awash in joy. Their little kids are growing up. Nancy Pauline’s father sees a great future ahead for his little girl. He’s worked at the mill all his life and he see his retirement in the relationship.
Now the trail opens up, at mile four, and I can get some time in, but the open area allows the sun to really beat down on me. I can feel it. I can feel the thermocline between the top of my hat and my head. I can feel the heat soaked into the sleeves of my shirt. I can feel the heat in my boots as if I have waded in it like a creek. I can feel in on my breath and taste it in my mouth. I know better than to wipe my eyes because the sweat will be smeared into my vision and not away from it. I blink the wetness away and keep walking. My hands are getting a little numb.
The final chapter in the rivalry, in as much as there really is one, is written in the senior year. Hamilton has a firm grip on Nancy Pauline’s affection and her family’s. All Travis has is his one change to get out and get ahead, as the High School quarterback. On the last play of the last game a defender hits Travis hard and his right knee is shattered. Hamilton see this as a sign from the Gods that he has won, and why shouldn’t he?
College goes as planned, there is the wedding, there is the first child, and life is very good. The next child arrives on time, Hamilton steps up and into his father’s old office and they have but to life out the dream, raise their kids to be the next Gods, and…something is wrong.
Hamilton has tracking software on every device he and Nancy Pauline own. He’s going through the files of where she has gone and discovers a trip to Travis’ trailer. Then another. And then another. The visits begin lasting longer and longer. Hamilton knows full well that a divorce and the charge of adultery will sully his name. No, better that he have them both killed.
The next mile hits an old road bed, the asphalt long since cracked and abandoned. But the heat coming off of it is fresh and brand new. Here is sure footing but this is an oven. Nearly a mile of this goes on and I can hardly stand it. Wave after wave after wave of heat slams into me. But after this one the trail goes back into more wooly territory and as bad as it may seem, the last miles will be cooler.
Hamilton realizes Nancy Pauline is taking wine with her on her trysts with Travis so he spikes the bottles with some of Nancy Pauline’s sleep meds and reseals them with fresh corks. He stays off the tracking software and instead trusts to time as to when they’ll be out. He has to walk through the heat to get to Travis trailer and it feels just like my walk to him.
Hamilton takes Travis belt and strangles Nancy Pauline with it. After she’s dead he puts her in the back or Travis’ truck and dumps the body at the back of Travis’ property, making sure to leave her cell phone in his truck. Hamilton returns home, waits for a few hours, then starts calling people looking for his wife, who is long overdue.
He’s disabled the tracking software but the telephone company pings her phone and the police arrive to arrest the still drunken Travis for murder. Hamilton gets to keep the kids and collects the insurance money.
The last mile is easy. It’s open space but I know now I can call it a day in about fifteen minutes. I call someone to pick me up and take me back to my truck and when I get back into an air conditioned vehicle I realize how overheated I’ve become. AC is of the Gods right now.
There’s a twist in the tale of the Murdering Banker. I like this tale.