I didn't tell Doug this so's not to offend him, but I reckon people went to chapel because they were scared of what could happen. If this heat continued more people would die so maybe it's worth believing again, that's what they were thinking.
Archie shook his head. He said it was because when you walked into chapel it was quiet, a different sort of quiet to the quiet of outside, and it was cool on your face.
It was a place, Archie said, that seemed a lot further away than everywhere else from the burning fires of Hell outside.
I persuaded Archie to go to chapel on Sunday. He didn't want to. Neither did I, to be honest, but we went. Thing is, Doug persuaded me. He said his Dad had told him "Everyone's coming to chapel these days." He said his Dad said "Son, every cloud has a silver lining" and laughed out loud when he'd added "even though we haven't got any clouds."
Well, we went to chapel and I wondered if what Doug's Dad said was right. Science had no answer to this infernal heat. Faith was needed. Faith in the Lord. God would provide.
So we made a pact, me, Doug and Archie. We'd never argue anymore. Whoever felt like fighting would just walk away and the others would understand and let him be for a while.
It worked. We went a whole week without arguing. Not bad, compared to the previous few weeks.
Honest, we'd be a good example to grown ups.
Because still the heat burned the sky.
Because when the water lorries came out dishing out water and when the milk lorry came around doling out milk, the adults would argue and often have to be pulled apart, yelling and crying.
We argued more and more from then on. Sometimes Doug would say "I don't want to come out today, we'll only end up fighting and arguing and all that" and he'd stay in. We'd hate him then, worse than we hated the heat, but I guess that's what the heat does to you. It follows you all day, never letting you be, turning you against each other and watching, prodding, provoking. The worst thing is Doug was right and me and Archie did end up yelling at each other.
I stormed off first, hating Doug even more for being right.
I couldn't believe we'd argued. We never argued. Not us, we never, ever argued.
It was the heat, obviously. So, angrily, we'd all shot off home and when we met next morning we'd come to the same conclusion: heat made us weird.
We'd seen it all before, of course, with the grown ups. They couldn't cope with the blazing weather, probably because they had other worries, too, like about their kids and that, and they'd argue and bicker all the time. Doug's Dad, he was the Minister at Bethesda Chapel, apparently he did sermons on behaving proper and not fighting.
"People smell." Doug wiped his sweating face in his tee and made his announcement like he'd just discovered it.
Dead sheep lying on the heathland, eyeless, thin and scrawny. A few days later, they'd be fat, like they'd done nothing but eat - but it was all gas. Lob a sharp rock at them, stand well back and watch them explode. God, that smelled.
Tarmac, wet and bubbling, a smell I liked - but so hot you had to wear shoes... so your feet stank.
"Drains," I said.
"Old people's houses," Doug said, "When nobody's seen 'em around for ages."
"My Dad's been laid off," Archie said.
A fortnight had passed. Still not a cloud in the sky.
Everyone had bags under their eyes, everyone was tanned, yet drawn. Sleep was more or less a thing of the past. Thirst was a constant companion.
"My Dad, too. Last week." I said.
"Men in two big cars came from somewhere to speak to my Dad and his friends. They don't think the factory will ever open again."
There were tears in Archie's eyes. "My Mam just cried," he said.
I hadn't told anybody but the same thing happened in my house.
That seems so long ago, but I still miss her, my teacher. My mam said she hadn't been well for years, but it shocked everybody when the heat killed her.
So this is shock is it, this empty angriness? It feels like it lives inside me but wasn't there before they told me she'd died. It's there all the time now, that and the thirst. They both rage.
"We'd get a new teacher next term anyway," Archie said. His face shimmered in the afternoon air. He licked dry cracks on his lips and I thought he looked like a lizard.
See our little town from above, you wouldn't see much. A hotchpotch of streets, our school, two factories and a dry river bed. To three sides, heath, to the other a motorway that sped past without looking and beyond that, woods.
I know. That was my school project last year: "My Town." I got a star, too, for painting an aerial picture of it. 'Cept I painted the river blue, and now it's black. Googlemap it, it looks like it's in the middle of nowhere: so I called my project "Full Stop On An Empty Page." My teacher loved that.
Don't get me wrong, Doug was a good mate, really funny. But he didn't half rant about global warming and the greedy fat selfish businessmen who didn't care about their own kids never mind anybody else's, who took profits from industries chucking crap into the air, making it hotter.
I'd stop people making profits, me, Doug would say.
I wasn't sure how that would help, but I guess it must be better than what we've ended up with.
"All we can do now," Doug sighed, "is pray."
He was right, as usual. But it was too hot even for praying.
It was much too hot to play. Had been for months. I couldn't remember a time when it wasn't blistering. But I do remember a time when we had a school to go to and water came out of the taps, and when old people didn't die left, right and centre.
"You'd think there'd been a nuclear war," Archie said. He was always on about war, he wanted to be a soldier when he grew up.
"Global warming," Doug said, and we both told him to shut up. We knew what was coming next, another flippin' lesson on climate change.
"We need a miracle," Archie moaned dismally.
"Pray for one, then," Doug replied, "Get God to do one."
I said "Mam says everybody been praying for rain this last three months. Fat lot of flippin' good that's done."
We sat in the shadow of our school building, probably the least ovenlike place we knew. It had shade and a breeze. Okay, it wasn't a cool breeze, but at least the air there actually moved, not like the rest of the air which clung to your skin like hot velcro and rasped the inside of your chest whenever you breathed in.