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The cold air wafting from the open refrigerator did little to relieve Marin Reiling's irritation-’much less her pounding headache-’as she lounged on the cheap vinyl flooring of her apartment kitchen.
Did people across the country actually think global warming was a myth?
Even spending her formative years in the southern climes of Auburn, Alabama, hadn't prepared Marin for the radiating heat of this blistering city summer in Chicago. Her poor, vintage fridge worked overtime to keep its contents from spoiling; but coupled with hundred-and-two-degree weather shimmering in the alleyways and through the streets, she didn't expect to bask in comfort here for more than ten minutes longer before she risked the appliance shutting down permanently.
And Marin couldn't afford fridge repairs right now. If she'd had any extra capital to her name, she'd have bought a floor fan from the hardware store thirty feet away down North Avenue. The fact that a mere twenty bucks escaped her desperate financial grasp even now made her physically squirm, her butt wriggling uncomfortably against the humidity-induced stickiness of the floor.
To distract her bitter conscience, she studied the contents of the fridge, composing a mental grocery list. Not that she could shop for anything until tomorrow's paycheck was automatically deposited. Eight a.m., and I'll be solid again.
She jumped, startled, as a churning, chugging noise sounded from the rear of her fridge. "No, no, no," she muttered as she lunged forward to lovingly stroke its chilled side, wedging her hand in the dark space between the appliance and the kitchen's battered cabinetry topped by a chipped, green laminate counter. Marin loathed those countertops with every molecule of her forcibly buried, genteelly southern soul, but as a renter (a poor one, at that) she wasn't in any position to demand renovations of her stingy landlord.
"Come on, baby." Her fingertips traced gentle circles (in what she hoped was a coaxing manner) as she willed the refrigerator to keep pumping blessedly cool air. "Come on, and I'll put fresh baking soda in there tomorrow. I'll even scrub you out this weekend."
The fridge sputtered in seeming disbelief. "Okay, maybe not this weekend, but soon. And I'll stop letting the milk go bad."
Its rumbling whir slowly dropped an octave as it prepared to die, and Marin's forehead landed with a dull thump against the white-painted fridge frame. When silence filled the thick-aired room, both woman and appliance emitted a sigh of surrender.
One final, metallic thunk had an unwilling smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "You're right, of course-’I always let the milk go bad."
With that, she used the door to yank herself up, shutting it and rolling stiff shoulders still sore from last night's shift. The only thing left to do-’the only promise of relief-’was to pull on clean clothes and go to work. At least the restaurant was air conditioned, she reasoned as she tugged her wrinkled tee shirt (a bleach-stained baby blue which proudly declared her an alumna of the "College of Hard Knocks") over her head, using the soft hem to wipe the sweat beading against the tops of her eyebrows.
"Out of this kitchen, into another," she murmured, wandering with heavy footsteps into her bedroom to scour her tiny closet for a clean chef's coat.