Being cretins of the finest pedigree, N and I put off getting an air conditioner until the hottest day of the year (so far). At lunch yesterday we wandered over to the swindlers appliance megastore on 14th Street, where the vibe was not unlike a Miami police auction. I wasn’t prepared to buy anything just then, because parting with any amount of money–unless it’s for booze–is very difficult for me and involves some crying and dryheaving. I wrote down some model numbers and was determined to find better prices for them online so that I could force those hustlers into honoring their pledge to “beat anyone’s prices.”

By the time we returned that evening, the store–which, in retrospect, seemed downright placid earlier that day–was like a scene from The Year of Living Dangerously and the salespeople were shouting “WHO CAN I HELP NEXT?” and desperate customers would wave their hands frantically and shout “ME! ME!” which is really funny, actually, because New Yorkers hate being helped.

Of course, they’d already sold out of the air conditioner model that I was prepared to make them give us for $30 less than their advertised price. We rushed over to our second-choice model and were told there were only a couple left, which other customers were eyeing hungrily. Naturally, we purchased that one immediately.

Back at our apartment, N grunted and cursed and howled as he struggled to assemble the air conditioner. (Did you know that A/C units require assembly? The accordion-type thingies that flank both sides of the unit must be painstakingly affixed in 43 different places using screws that are less than a millimeter long.)

I drank a Pimm’s Cup.

When it came time to mount the A/C in the window, however, we realized we had a problem–no wooden blocks to keep it from tilting at a dangerous angle. We struggled with what to use instead. Styrofoam wouldn’t endure. Same with cardboard.

We ended up taping together A Man in Full and some Anne Rice novel. Oh, and an old Paris Review. They weren’t difficult sacrifices to make. Infinite Jest would have been ideal, but I remembered I was already using it to prop up one of my bureaus.

William Gass better hope we don’t need another A/C for the living room.

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