As last weekend’s Big Heat was building, I scurried home to water the fuchsia that hangs outside our kitchen window.

What miserable heat. The fuchsia was lucky to have dutiful me around.

As I sprayed, the late afternoon quiet was broken by a high-decibel whine that seemingly came out of nowhere.

Was it a neighbor’s weed-whacker? Possibly swarming bees?

Then it hit me. My next-door neighbors had turned on the motor that powers the fan than ventilates their attic.

We’d been down this road a dozen years before. When the neighbors remodeled, they’d installed a high RPM attic fan on the roof facing our living room. Even with our windows down, the sound was not unlike that of a dentist about to go to work.

The neighbors had no idea their fan was creating waves at the Courtney’s. On their property, virtually no sound could be heard.

At that time, the threat to our sanity was resolved quickly and amicably. The instant we raised the issue, they clicked the fan switch to off.

To summarize: For the past 12 years our neighbors have had an attic fan available for scorching days, but they never used it. Never ever.

Think about it. Can you imagine a more selfless gesture?

If we were in their situation and had to choose between our comfort or theirs, would we have done the same?

Their self-sacrifice humbled me.

But now, after more than a decade of silence, the sound was back. Had the latest heat wave broken their spirit? Had they decided, enough with the Courtneys, already?

I broke the fan situation to Cheryl in the manner of a home inspector announcing termites.

Cheryl didn’t immediately know what I was talking about. She’d mostly forgotten the neighbors even had an attic fan pointed at us.

I told myself not to over-react. Maybe we can get used to this. Like people do who live next to airports or freeways.

Only I never wanted to live next to an airport or a freeway. I wanted the sound of chirping birds back.

I hated what was going to happen next. I was going to have to go next door and register my complaint.

I feared my neighbors wouldn’t be sympathetic this time. In effect, I was asking them to stew in their own juices all summer so I could bliss out on solitude.

Or perhaps Cheryl should be the one to intervene? Woman to woman. Or woman to man. Just leave me out of it.

No, she said.

Our guy neighbor was puttering in his front yard when I sauntered over. I called out a greeting. His dog barked aggressively. Dogs can sense things.

My neighbor was dumbfounded. The fan? Noise? Inside our house?

Honestly, I said. Just like a dozen years before.

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But don’t listen to my words. Come over for a listen.

This invitation felt weird. We’d been meaning to invite them over to see our remodeled back rooms for the past six month, but hadn’t. Only NOW that we wanted something, I’m saying come on over?

It felt shabby.

Ten minutes later they knocked on our door. Their visit was most gratifying. Cheryl got to show off her new kitchen, including the faucet that turns on with a wave of her hand.

I got to show off The Sound.

Our neighbors were genuinely astonished by the buzz emanating from their roof. The vent motor doesn’t sound anything like this on their property, they said. Not even in their attic.

It’s one of those weird parabolic phenomena, they suggested.

Yes, we said. It’s parabolic.

Our neighbors promised to work out a solution. In the meantime, the fan would be off.

Feeling euphoric, I found myself volunteering to pay half. I was sincere. The offer was rejected.

Our restored silence is a beautiful thing. I didn’t mind the 100-degree days that followed.

Yes, we sweltered in our home, but it was a silent heat.

Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.

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