Fire Up The Grill

Submitted into Contest #53 in response to: Write a story about another day in a heatwave. ... view prompt




“Stop splashing me Damien or I’m telling mom!”

“You boys ready to get on the boat and do some fishing?”

The chaos of chatter and conversations surrounding the shores of Lake Tahoe on that blazing hot summer day in July were absurd. The beaches were jam packed like sardines crammed into a small tin can. People from far and wide had swarmed the emerald coves of lake tahoe to escape the heat waves of summer. Like many others the Scott family had retreated from  their urban homes to beat the heat at their lakefront cabin located on the North Shore of Tahoe. The whole family was invited: aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. Everyone was enjoying the soothing cool waters on that blazing hot day. Lemonades for the kids and beers for the parents were in excess. Summers were always known to be the hot months of the year but in recent years temperatures had been escalating. Climate change was increasing the daily average temperatures year after year. Summers were heating up like an oven being prepped for a batch of cookies. Billions of people were being affected by these rising temperatures and the hordes of people surrounding Lake Tahoe were no different. However, for these more affluent people and families they just viewed these warmer temperatures as ideal days on the lake. The Scotts were no different. Mr. Scott was manning the barbeque full of beef patties, veggie patties and hot dogs. It was just about time for lunch and just like a line chef he began to call out one by one for the families orders.

“Hey Tom, do you want a burger or hot dog?”

Tom was a structural engineer for the city of Phoenix in Arizona. Work days at the office had been getting longer and increasingly more frustrating. Structural failures had been increasing year after year in correlation with record breaking temperature highs for the world. This was no coincidence. Infrastructural failures are not uncommon. Structures weather, decay, and are subject to natural disasters. However, engineers take the necessary precautions and developmental techniques to handle these disasters that occur across the United States and the globe. In the midwest buildings are created to withstand the vigorous winds of tornadoes. In the South structures are created to help protect against the floods and downpours of hurricanes. In California engineers must take into account the shake of earthquakes. Tom and other engineers have been struggling to adapt their structures to accommodate for infrastructure failures due to excessive heat waves. Many materials that are used in common infrastructure (such as steel) begin to expand and deform when temperatures remain over 100 degrees fahrenheit for extended periods of time. Phoenix Arizona, on average, has one hundred a 100 degree days every year. This has led to huge implications for Tom and the city. Office buildings have been experiencing structural failure as their steel framing is deformed from these high temperatures. Rail lines for trains have become warped causing catastrophic crashes. Every aspect of the urban structure has been undergoing updates and adaptations to accommodate for the new reality of the increased annual number of heatwaves. There has been an increase in children hospital admittance due to burns from melted asphalt just from playing catch in the street. Tom is thankful to have this break with his family to escape the stressful work day.

“Hey Steve, I will take the burger! Please and thank you.”

“Coming right up Tom. Say, how goes the job these days?” Steve inquired.

Tom gave a hefty sigh as he told Steve about the long days he had been putting in at his engineering firm in Phoenix.

“Damn Tom, I am sorry to hear about that. Hopefully things relax a bit for you as we transition out of summer in the next couple of months. Crazy weather these days but I am sure it will all pass,” replied Tom.

Steve Scott handed his brother Tom a juicy, rare grade A beef patty from a happy California Cow. Steve was chugging his beer like a man lost in the desert. The barbeque duty on this blazing hot day was a strenuous task. 

“Hey Steve just give a holler if you want to sub out from grill duty. It is a warm one out today,”said Tom.

“Thanks mate I appreciate it but I think I can manage the task. Go enjoy yourself. I will join you soon for another cold one. Just a few more people to feed,” Steve chuckled with reluctance. His ego couldn’t let him back down from the grill.

“Hey Susan, do you want your bun toasted?”

Susan, Scott’s sister, works for a major airline as a commercial pilot. Normally it is very hard for her to escape the work environment so she is very thankful for the time off with her family. She was ready to begin a long series of flights starting in the Las Vegas Nevada airport. However, just before she was about to embark on this three week spree of non-stop flights around the world everything was canceled. Las Vegas had experienced a major heatwave this past week that inhibited the take off of all flights until the temperatures declined. Susan never would have imagined her line of work to be affected by climate change but here she was on a very unexpected, much needed vacation for a few weeks waiting for the world to cool down. Planes need to reach a higher speed to lift off with higher temperatures. In Las Vegas the runways were physically not long enough for planes to get to the necessary speeds in order to fly. Additionally the temperatures became so high that the asphalt on the runways was so viscous that several planes had their wheels sucked into the tarmac like a shallow tar pit. Susan and Tom had a lot to chat about with the commonality of infrastructure failures of airports and the city of Phoenix. They have been sipping beers for hours collaborating and exchanging contacts for future prospects of work.

“Toasted would be lovely Scott. Thanks a bunch,” Susan said. Wow, you are looking pretty flushed. Are you drinking enough water behind this intense grill job?” Susan jokingly prodded.

“I could do this all day,” Scott joked. “Go enjoy a day by the lake and we can catch up once everyone gets their lunch.”

“Jill do you want cheese?”

Jill is a recent college graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a major in oenology. She finished up her classes and hopped right into an internship on a local winery around the Central Coast of California. She was well on her way to becoming an award winning wine maker but sadly the ever growing persistence and number heatwaves per year has also been upsetting the agricultural industry. With increasing global temperatures grapes and several other crops were experiencing alterations to their growing season. Spring was coming earlier and earlier. Frost seasons were shortening and changing the normal farming and harvesting season for all agricultural specialists. It was hard times for the farm and winery workers and Jill was no exception. Their main variant of grape for her award winning wine was roasted in the most recent heat waves leaving herself and the winery down on their luck. For now she would have to retire her grape stained lab coat for a while and wait for the next season to come around to further pursue her aspirations of creating an award winning wine. The animosity of the situation was stretching far beyond Jill’s wine aspirations though. Food shortages were becoming a closer and closer reality for the world. Wheat, Coffee, corn, and almonds were all becoming endangered due to warmer temperatures and altered growing seasons.

“No cheese for me uncle Steve I am vegan, don’t you remember?” Jill laughed.

“Oh that’s right my bad Jill. Here is your veggie burger. Speaking of veggies, how goes the job at the winery? From what your mom tells me you have quite a talent in the wine industry, Steve said.

“Sadly the industry has seen better days Steve. With all these heat waves of lates the vineyards and a bunch of other crops have been suffering. We are taking a break until next season to reassess our agricultural methods for the coming years,” replied Jill.

“Well I’m sorry to hear that Jill but I’m sure it will all work out for you in the end. Some say this climate change business is all just a hoax anyway. I’m sure it is just a phase and things will be back to normal before we know it. Damn, sure is warm out today though, especially behind this grill,” said Steve.

“Yeah well, whatever helps you sleep at night Uncle Steve. Climate change isn’t a hoax. It is very real and we need to start making some serious changes. Just remember to keep drinking water behind this grill,” Jill mentioned frustratingly as she retreated to the shore. She just couldn’t believe how anyone could still deny climate change.

“Alright Kurt you are the last one. Ketchup or mustard for your hot dog?”

Kurt was Steve’s best friend from highschool and had married his sister, Susan. Kurt was a fire fighter that had been battling the flames in the forests of California non stop this season. With rising temperatures lowering water tables and causing global droughts the forests had become the world’s largest box of matches. Week after week Kurt was called out across the state of California. From the high sierras to  the coasts of Santa Barbara the golden state had become brown with drought and black with ash. Kurt has had a rough season. He lost two of his comrades to the raging fires and has seen far more destruction than anyone ever should in their lives. He described it like a warzone where the enemy could never be defeated; growing stronger and stronger no matter how hard they fought. Families lost their homes to the blazes and were left with nothing but piles of soot like a child on the naughty list getting a stocking full of coal. All their belongings and memories burnt to a crisp. Whole towns were wiped off the map as though they never existed. Forests were burnt to the ground leaving only torched twigs erupting from the ground like candles from a cake. 

Kurt looked exhausted as he snagged his hot dog from Steve.

“I can get it Steve why don’t you get away from this grill man you look like you are burning up.”

“Ah nonsense Kurt you and my sister are guests here I inist and I promise I’m…”

Steve couldn’t finish his sentence as he collapsed to the ground from heat exhaustion. His body had become overheated standing next to that grill on that blazing hot summer day for hours on end. His ego wouldn’t let him step away from the barbeque all afternoon. He hadn’t realized how dehydrated he had become. He was unaware of his family and friends rushing over to him and calling 911. He awoke in the ER surrounded by his family and friends a day later with no recollection of the events preceding cooking Kurt’s hot dog. Luckily Steve would make a full recovery but hundreds of people every year are now admitted to the hospital due to heat related illnesses. That number is only on the rise as climate change persists. A heatwave is defined as a long period of abnormally high temperatures. The number of heatwave events globally has increased from an average of two to ten events per years. Additionally the duration of each of these heat wave events has grown. The worst part is that it isn’t just heat related illnesses on the rise but also heat related deaths.

Heatwaves have never been considered harmless but they used to be a manageable phenomena for the earth. Now they have encroached onto humanity at no one’s fault but our own. Human induced climate change is not stopping and it is only the rise. Heat Waves will only become more prevalent and they will continue affecting our everyday lives from our infrastructure, agricultural, and health.

August 07, 2020 18:44

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