Deep South

by Joel Stottlemire © 2002

Pavement can sweat when it’s good and hot and you’re in just the right sort of deep south mood. That day was hot like that and Lucas was definitely feeling deep south. The air was so wet that his clothes were stuck to him before he could cross the three or four blocks from his house to the little girl’s.

“Hi.” He said running up, panting in the heat. “Ever seen pavement sweat?”

She looked up from a sun she was drawing on the sidewalk with bright yellow chalk. “Pavement don’t sweat.” She said.

“Sure it does.” Lucas squatted down over his canvas All-Star High Top tennis shoes to look at her sun. “Like right there. There’s a circle of sweat commin’ up from the pavement now.”

The little girl looked at the dark circle and shook her head under her long, blond hair. “That ain’t nothing but a drop of sweat off your sun burnt head.”

“But I ain’t sweating.”

She blew the hair out of her face well enough to look at Lucas with one blue eye then went back to her drawing. “Then what’s that got your shirt all soaked under your arms?” She asked.

“That ain’t sweat. That’s condensation. The cement’s already got the air all wet.

She looked up at him with both piercing eyes. “My mommy told me not to play with you ‘cause you’re weird.”

“I’m not playing with you. I’m just explaining to you about sweat.

“Oh.” She went back to her drawing.

“Look,” Lucas said, “you ever seen a glass of water that’s colder than the air around it?”


“Gets water all over the outside, don’t it?”


“Well that’s condensation. Now, it’s hotter out here than you are, ain’t it?”

“I guess so.”

“So you must be condensing. It’s just plain science.”

The little girl huffed at a bug flying by and thought it all over. “That makes sense.” She said taking up a thick stick of orange chalk to draw a smiling mouth on her sun.

“Here’s the weird part.” Lucas continued. “How does all that water get into the air?” She didn’t answer. “It’s pavement sweat.”

“Pavement cain’t sweat.” She shouted suddenly.

“Are you sure? Have you checked yourself. I mean, who told you pavement cain’t sweat? Who told you? Do you remember?”

She shivered despite the heat. “Well…no.”

Maybe you just thought someone told you.” Lucas’ eyes grew wide. “Maybe you were lied to. Grown-ups sometimes lie to their kids you know.”

The little girl dropped her chalk and rose up to her feet. “Don’t talk like that any more.”

“The worst part is when the air gets so full of sweat that the water just jumps out of the sky and starts drowning people. I’ll bet it’s almost that hot now.”

The girl looked around her as if expecting water to come jumping out at her. A small sniffle escaped her.

“Don’t cry!” Lucas wailed. “Tears’ll just make it worse.”

“I don’t want to play with you.” The girl wailed, her tears rising.

“We got to cool you off .”

Lucas grabbed the girl by the hand and pulled her to the edge of the road. At the curb he got behind her and gave her a firm push. She flew out into the street and plunged into the pavement with a splash. She rose up kicking wildly and sputtering.

“Now just swim.” Lucas called, but the girl just kept drifting downstream, her head appearing and disappearing as she went along.

The current carried her around the corner of Elm and Willow and she disappeared from sight.

Lucas sighed and sat down to take off his shoes. After a car passed he stepped gingerly off the curb in the road. The pavement swirled gently around his ankles. Upstream he could hear the Johnson twins playing in their yard. With any luck, their mother would be inside.

x x x

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