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Sacramento Heat. By Martin Green.

As anyone knows who’s lived there, Sacramento is hot in the summer. To be sure, the humidity is low so it’s a “dry heat,” but that doesn’t make much difference when it’s 100 or more degrees. Being in this kind of heat you become irritable and everything gets on your nerves. The slightest thing can drive you into a rage.

My wife Hillary and I were playing bridge at our next-door neighbors. Tom, a retiree like myself, was a big man who hated the hot weather. His wife Gwen was a petite woman but she ran the house. Now they were having one of their typical arguments. “I told you to straighten up the house,” Gwen said.

“It’s too hot to do anything,” replied Tom. “Especially with you keeping the thermostat up.”

“We have to conserve energy.” She asked us if we thought it was too hot. I felt warm but I politely said, “No, it’s fine.”

In the next game Tom mistakenly trumped Gwen’s ace. “You fool,” she yelled. “You just cost us the game. How could you be so stupid?”

“Because it’s too hot in here to think straight.”

Hillary and I left as soon as we decently could. As we prepared for bed, we could hear yelling from next door. Later that night I thought I heard a scream but couldn’t be sure. Then still later I heard the sound of digging in Tom’s backyard.

A few days later I went over and asked Tom about the digging. He said it was some work Gwen had been after him to do and since it was so hot and he couldn’t sleep anyway he’d done it late at night. I noticed the house was in a mess and the air-conditioner was going full blast. I casually asked him if Gwen was okay. “Yes,” he said. “She’s gone to stay with our daughter.”

After Gwen hadn’t reappeared in two weeks I said to Hillary. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking.”

“You never know. Lift your feet so I can vacuum there. You know, I wish you’d get out of the house sometime.”

“Don’t worry. If it ever cools off, I’ll be happy to get out of your way.”

“And pick up those papers. You’re getting as bad as Tom.”

I could have said she was getting as bad as Gwen but refrained.

I waited another two weeks, then I couldn’t stand it any more. I went next door. “Look, Tom,” I said. “Come clean. Where’s Gwen?”

“Why, I’m right here. “ It was Gwen, coming down the stairs, as sprightly as ever.

“She just got back,” said Tom.

“Oh.” I admit I was surprised. I went back to my house. This would take some thinking. I’d been sure that Tom had done away with Gwen and planted her in his back yard. I was counting on him to confess so that we could put Hillary beside her, as I knew she’d have liked. Now what to do? Well, for now she’d have to stay where she was, in the freezer.

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