In addition to not being able to afford it, we didn’t have air-conditioning as a point of pride. True, we lived 40 miles inland, and it could get hot but it was dry heat, as we would say over and over, and not that wet stuff like back in SC where you never stopped feeling damp and you’d get heat rashes in odd places.
But we were sitting around in the front room sort of suffering through the heat together on a dreary Sunday afternoon. The old lady was flopped on the sofa per usual reading the newspaper and the old man was sitting on this sitting place he had made that jutted out from around the fireplace firebox. The family dog, sitting right next to him on the cool brick, began to yip. This unfortunate dog was a mix of Chihuahua and rat terrier; it was short haired and had a huge dick.
The old man told the fucking dog to shut up. But it kept yipping at something out in the front yard or maybe up on the street. That dog made us insane with its high pitched yipping. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the old man, looking straight ahead, take out his cigarette lighter, flip it open and ignite it right next to the yipping dog’s asshole. There was a sort of pregnant pause as the nerves sent their messages to the dog’s brain.
Man, did that dog jump. Arching out over the living room floor, it landed more on its chest than its front legs, slid on the hardwood floor and banged into the wall.
Nobody said a word or blinked an eye. The old lady looked over her newspaper, shook it out, and went back to reading. The old man was dead pan.
“Man,” I said, “did you see that. Did you see that arch! I thought the damn thing was going to fly.”
The old southern attitude towards animals is somewhat different than that of the civilized Californian. My uncle likes to joke, “Want to see something funny? Tie two cats’ tails together and throw them over a clothesline. But if you want to see something really funny tie two cats tails together and throw them over a goat.” And in Huck Finn, Twain records the bored town folk on a hot afternoon pouring gas on dogs and setting the afire.
There’s was no TV back then so you had to make do with whatever entertainment material was at hand.