A Short Story – The California Drought, Day 1,643

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Once lush green stalks of tall grass glowed an angry red, as though they had been sunburned instead of merely water deprived.

I always presumed I would see plumes of yellow during the deep dog-days of summer, as the plants prepared for winter and reminded me to take hay fever medication. It was, after all, almost August. Instead the bleached tips of overgrown weeds in the expansive field waved a white flag of surrender as though mocking America the Beautiful’s sweet-smelling waving wheat.

The sidewalk was littered with carcasses of pill bugs. Their little roly-poly backsides having succumbed to the dry heat, as though they burned in a desert while crawling toward a mirage of water. Some still lived; little legs waving upside down in the air. Or perhaps it was the summer breeze moving such tiny appendages. Others were flattened – whether trodden upon by the boots of daily commuters or dehydrated into non-existence remained unclear.

A lone slug inched his way across the bright white sidewalk, leaving a glittering trail of slime in his wake – his path reflecting the sun’s intensity with every movement forward.

The California drought raged on.

Across town a tired-looking man in grayish blue coveralls was power washing the sidewalk. His employer’s building branding itself to the withering city in large brightly lit letters: SAN JOSE WATER COMPANY. Inside the building, worker bees buzzed about brainstorming various new methods of how to monitor the recent imposition of mandatory water rationing.

I wondered if the man realized the irony of his morning.

Meanwhile the oppressive heat continued its brutal assault against well-meaning corporate drones, whose sweat sizzled against the dead and dried landscaping. Business casually dressed employees pressed forward, pushing against the daylight misshapen and bent by the scorching mercury, willing themselves toward the artificially cooled cubicles housed in the concrete buildings ahead.

The thermometer read 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

From inside my office, I envied those enjoying the heat. Instead I huddled next to my space heater like a Dickensonian era pauper crouched beside a garbage fire in mid-winter. It was perhaps 9.5 degrees.

Freezing.

Why maintenance, why?

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