“Mad Heat Be Praised,” by Kat Meads.

An excerpt from Miss Jane: The Lost Years.

Kat Meads, who contributed “Leaving the House” to Broad Street’s “Maps & Legends” issue, bids adieu to summer swelter with an excerpt from her latest book combining women’s studies and fiction, Miss Jane: The Lost Years.

A native of eastern North Carolina, Kat is the author of For You, Madam Lenin; Sleep; In This Season of Rage and Melancholy Such Irrevocable Acts as These; 2:12 a.m.; Born Southern and Restless, and over a dozen other books of prose and poetry. Her short plays have been staged in LA, NYC, Berkeley, and elsewhere, and her work has garnered praise from the likes of Kelly Cherry, Allison Amend, Valerie Miner, and Lee Gutkind.

Miss Jane’s publisher, Livingston Press, describes the book: “A spirited dive into power and sexual politics narrated by a fierce (and funny) female chorus, Miss Jane: The Lost Years chronicles farm girl Jane’s entanglement with Prof P, serial bedder of undergrads, and education in all things: books, partners, economics, and selfhood. Supporting cast: therapists, stepchildren, rescue dogs, B. F. Skinner, formidable women poets, and mad-making Southern heat.”

Be sure to read our Spotlight Interviews with Kat here: Part 1; Part 2 (on hybrid forms).

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“Mad Heat Be Praised”

It’s mid-summer in the Piedmont (i.e., unmercifully hot). Air still as stone. Lethargy a survival tactic. Miss Jane’s ever-reactive cheeks stay rash-red morning to sultry night, dripping sweat no balm to prickly heat. For her Coastal Plain of origin, moist body / stifled breath Jane longs. Home is calling her home. (Agreed, it’s strange: a Southern damsel sent packing by rising temps. That said, we’ll get behind any excuse that flings Miss Jane wide of Prof P’s orbit.) When she announces — yes! ANNOUNCES! — she’s off to visit her folks, Prof P sulks. Her given-notice employer sobs, his allergy meds screwing with his anxiety meds. Summer months, emotionally, he’s a wrung-out towel. “But you were the ideal employee! How will I ever replace you?” (He won’t. Finding a second ideal employee amenable to minimum wage doesn’t happen outside of fiction.) In addition to sulking, Prof P hints darkly at retribution. Without a job, how will Miss Jane pay her half of Bishop Street rent? If she doesn’t pay, he won’t “hold her place”; he’ll “be forced” to find another “roommate.” Not that we wish that disaster on any woman, but: by all means, Prof P! Follow through on the blackmail! Consider our lost Jane your lost cause! Harangued, Miss Jane’s rashy cheeks burn brighter, but her resolve to head east does not flag. It does not flag.

Has mad heat created Zombie Jane, her zombie-brain ignoring blunt / insidious detainer threats, her zombie-heart squelching every tender wisp of feeling for her blubbering ex-boss, against whom (normally) she bears no grudge? To reach the cooler Coastal Plain, Miss Jane appears steeled to drive through walls, fences, orchards, Fourth of July parades. With forty dollars and change — sufficient funds to cover gas, a mid-drive fast-food burger — she’ll take to the highway. In the case of medical emergency / vehicular mishap, she’ll rely on the kindness of strangers.

Whoop!

She’s in the car, hands on a blistering steering wheel; she’s started the engine; she’s backing out, head turned from the spectacle of Prof P’s tantrum. She’s got the windows rolled down, radio turned up. Driveway and ’hood behind her, she and the station wagon’s tires are spinning off Bishop Street altogether.

Are our ears playing tricks?

They are not.

Miss Jane is indeed belting out a song, really lettin’ ’er rip.

The last time Miss Jane burst into song?

Pre the onset of Unfortunate Events.

Pre the onset of Criticism, the Sport.

Pre the acquaintance of prick Prof P.

A marvel is what it is: Miss Jane accelerating, pounding the steering wheel, swaying in the driver’s seat, singing her lungs out on this muggy mess of a day.

Mad heat be praised.

Miss Jane: The Lost Years features some of Kat’s doodles of trees.

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True stories, honestly.
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