Stinkin hot. That was Evan’s phrase for describing the weather that summer. He dropped it into daily conversations and typed it at the beginning of texts and emails (Still stinkin hot here). It surfaced in his mind first thing when he got up in the morning and felt the stickiness of the bottom sheet and the dampness of the top sheet tangled around his groin. It popped into his head whenever he stepped out the door and a wave of hot air broke upon him and pulled him into its undertow.

As it did this particular Saturday. The mid-afternoon sun baked the earth once again, as it had now for several weeks. The heat radiated off the ground where he stood on the brown, flattened grass off the side porch. Here, the soil was thinnest over a vein of rock running past his and Mae’s old farmhouse. He looked closely at the ground and saw cracks zigzagging through the dirt, creating tiny Grand Canyons. He sometimes wondered if the builders had had to blow up some of the rock vein in order to make space for the stone foundation and basement. He’s pretty sure dynamite was invented around then—1867, when the oldest part of their house rose from the ground—but he imagines a crew of workers going at the rock with pick-axes, chisels, and shovels.

Check out the full story in our summer issue, out in July 2023!