Joe looked through the picture window at the end of the bar and saw the misty and dark sky. “Look at it,” he shouted. “It shrouds the city for days at a time.”
“Think warm,” Kathy said, “Picture in your mind what we left behind.”
Joe closed his eyes and saw the ocean waves breaking on the beach in Fort Lauderdale Florida and saw palm trees swaying in the wind and the Bougainvillea covering walls. He pictured the bikini-clad girls walking on the beach. He opened his eyes and saw the swirling snow growing into illustrious piles of mush fit only for a sleigh or sled.
“I try, and when I close my eyes, it’s all right, but when they’re open, reality crashes down all around and I’ll never enjoy this Arctic like place that La Salle should have passed on by.”
“It’s not so bad up above. Imagine your spirit flying above the clouds.”
Joe closed his eyes again and soared above the dark blanketing clouds. He found himself in rarified illuminating air. He saw sunshine there. If only when he was down below he could know that the sun rays were mightily trying to burn through winter’s freezing cold that destroyed roads, and any dreams of spring, summer or even thirty two degrees?
“You’re right, Kathy, it’s not so bad up there.”
“If you like it there, you’ll love it where I come from, it’s always warm, and there are plenty of others like you there. Women walk around naked all day and to tell the truth no one wears any clothes.”
“Where do you come from?” Joe had met Kathy in Florida, and she followed him wherever he went after that. He never asked her where she came from, but now she had him wondering.
“I’m not allowed to say, but if you do all the right things, I can take you there.” Kathy gave Joe a handful of pills, “Start by taking these.”
Joe washed them down with beer. He closed his eyes and imagined the world Kathy had described. He saw naked women frolicking on a sandy beach under the warm sun. When he wanted to eat, food was delivered on a silver tray by other women who wore aprons but nothing else.
There were all sorts of dogs running down the beach. Trucks loaded with beer lined the road and movies played in the sky if he wanted to watch them. Music was all around if he desired to listen. All he had to do was think of anything, and it was his. Money wasn’t needed for anything, and he saw none who had a cold or were sick in any way.
He opened his eyes to the dark, and he couldn’t see a thing. He didn’t remember going anywhere. Kathy no longer sat beside him. Lightning flashed, and he saw he was no longer in the bar. He started to sweat from the heat. Better than the Chicago cold, he thought until it got so hot it burned his skin. “Turndown the goddamn heat,” he shouted to whom, he didn’t know.
It got hotter and brighter. He began to see, and happiness filled his heart as he saw sand and a naked woman carrying a tray headed for him. When she got close, he saw she had no head. She carried it on the tray. So much heat made his mouth cry out for a drink of something cold. As though answering his thought, a woman who had a head appeared with a glass full of ice water. Joe grabbed it and took a drink. The water turned to sand as it passed his lips; he gagged, choked, and screamed, “Is that supposed to be a joke?”
The woman who had given him the water said, “That’s the way it is here.”
Before he could ask where here was, he saw a dog knock her to the ground and in an instant she was being devoured by lots of other dogs. This isn’t a place he wanted to be and tried to imagine being in another place, but he couldn’t leave.
He ran to where the sand met the water. He was so hot and thirsty that he ran into the water with his mouth open. It turned to flames, and he became a fire eater. He swam through the flames and came to an island where people, still alive turned on spits above roaring flames. Joe tried to save one by taking him off the fire.
“Don’t do that. I was given a choice to freeze or cook,” the man on the spit said. “I hate the cold, so I chose this.”
Joe couldn’t understand where he was or why the people here were so strange. He went to an opening in the hill and found a cave. Inside the cave, it got cooler, and relieved joe, until he saw insects feasting on people who came there to beat the heat. He ran screaming from the cave. He thought he’d rather be dead than endure living like this.
“You would have been dead, but you did the right thing and swallowed the pills I gave you,” Kathy said as she came into view. “So I brought you to my home.”
Joe wished he were back in Chicago’s cold. He’d never complain about the snow or anything else, if only he didn’t have to stay in this place Kathy called home.
He opened his eyes back in the bar, and Kathy was gone. He ripped off his coat, ran outside into the snow, and put a handful into his mouth. It tasted so much better than sand. He looked to the Gray sky and saw Kathy up there.
“Think warm,” she said and disappeared.