by Benjamin Drevlow
It’s not even the end of March in Mankato and already it’s eighty degrees out. Global Warming’s coming to skewer us all! At least that’s what that birch tree is yelling out from half the TVs in the student union, yelling at any trust-fund preppie who’ll listen. The world has a fever, the birch tree says. A fever! He shouts this almost loud enough to be mistaken for passion. Or at least loud enough to convince a couple of American Eagle hippies to whistle and applaud while the rest of the students glare and whisper. And unless we watch his movie and make real changes in our lives, the birch tree tells us, our planet is going to sweat us out on a stinky gym towel and toss us in the stinky hamper that is oblivion.
But I think I can go ahead and speak for the handful of college Republicans in the house when I say I’ll take all the global warming I can get. It’ll probably snow tomorrow or worse. This being Minnesnowda, where weathermen have to weather proof their hair, don weather-appropriate apparel, and load up on lithium before letting their manic depression step in front of that green screen every night. The green screen where they superimpose our snow, sleet, and blizzards for us so—just in case we don’t know what a wind-chill factor of negative fifty feels like—at least we can imagine what it looks like. Yeah, Minnesota, where crop farmers drink too much corn whiskey and get fed up with Mother Nature’s cock-teasing then head out to statutorily rape the soil with plows three months early. Where we tune to the weather channel just hoping for global warming. When’s our turn? we ask. When’s the warm front coming our way?
By the time I get off work at the kitchen and get my paycheck to the campus bank, my rent check has already bounced—too bad, so sad. That’ll be twenty-nine-ninety-nine courtesy pay for the trouble. Outside the bank, I find myself waiting for that yammering birch tree to tell me how global warming is responsible for robbing me my $29.99, or how his movie is gonna cash my rent check.
Outside the union, the co-eds are on the grass sunning in their short-shorts and tank tops. Braless and letting their shoulder straps slip off their shoulders just to prove it to you. And the frat boys, topless and tossing a football around. Flaunting their finely-honed and bench-press-sculpted man-boobs. Showing off those taut little pencil-eraser nipples for all us fatty-hairy-nippled, non-frat guys to admire. Those knock-off Native American tattoos and painted-on Paris Hilton tans. Who wouldn’t want to get drunk off too many Mike’s Hards and get rabbit-mounted by one of these studs?
And there’s me—the crotch of my multi-colored chili-pepper pants ripped open, reeking of swamp-ass and waffles. My mohawk spiked high and tight, gelled prickly with maple syrup and grill sweat. Walking around a campus I no longer have any right to be on. A school bank account I should have closed a year ago. A year ago, when I was a peon grad student and a TA. A year ago when I had a reason to ogle under-grads. A year ago when I taught them the five-paragraph essay in trade.
And today it’s March and eighty degrees out. I’m an egg cook and a dirty, crotch-smelling degenerate, so I’m on my way back to my apartment before the warm breeze catches my taint stink and some high strung braless former comp student calls the campus police to have me removed for acting pervy. And when I get home, Stan the five-o-clock weather guy, winks at me and tells me to enjoy the weather while it lasts. And I’ll be damned if he doesn’t start spouting off on Horace and seizing the day. Carpe diem, he tells me, for tomorrow expect freezing rain in the early morning, sleet in the afternoon, and big puffy coats for the rest of eternity. The extended forecast: shoulder straps going back up shoulders, bras coming back out, and the little co-eds heading back to their fifth-floor dorm rooms, their high-rider thongs and halter-tops headed back to their Friday Night Clubbing drawer. And then Stan the weatherman grabs a green-screen Corona out of his green-screen beach-cooler, pulls out a green-screen beach chair and grabs a little green-screen R&R in his green-screen sunshine glory.
Me? I’m with the birch tree. The entire damn world is suffering from something, and I’m tired of battling the fatigue and nausea of this heat stroke. Come and get me, birch tree. Come and take me, El Niño. Come and scorch us all. Fry our brains right out here on the pavement like those drugs we took were supposed to do. Just make mine over easy with a little extra run. I’d hate for the last taste in my mouth to be chalky and mushy and completely devoid of anything wet or salty or savory whatsoever.
Benjamin Drevlow’s collection of autobiographical stories, Bend With the Knees and Other Love Advice From My Father, won the 2006 Many Voices Project. His fiction has also appeared in Passages North, Split Lip, Neat, and more. He is a fiction reader at BULL: Men’s Fiction, and teaches writing at Georgia Southern University.