It’s dusk, and the rain is coming. There’s a man, unsteady on his feet, with a long, curled-handle umbrella. He’s holding it up to his shoulder like a machine gun, staring down the barrel and swiveling like a jungle commando, catching his image in the scratched plexiglass window of the bodega. I wonder if the yellowed, dust-refracted reflection suits his idea of himself better than a harsh mirror. A small boy wanders out of the store and stands a few feet away, watching. The man pivots slowly, beginning to grunt and growl before he comes around to face the boy. The boy pulls his arms around himself and waits to see where this is going. So do I. The man hunkers down and grunts his way toward the boy, the umbrella-gun carefully aimed. I’m weighing my slightness against the man’s new equilibrium. In case. Then, something invisible passes between them and the tension breaks. The boy giggles and runs behind a tree, peeking out. The man pulls a 40oz out of a pocket and sits down on the bodega steps. The evening begins.
Archive for the 'kids' Category
They are eleven or twelve, some age just before sex alters their ways, though it’s approaching by the narrowest of margins. They are boys and girls piling on top of each other on one of the benches lining the walkway. One boy is singing, forcing his voice to squeak and growl for emphasis. He’s striving for James Brown but not quite making it that far. You can see it in their faces, they are getting away with something, all this squirming in each other’s laps, the contours of their bodies pressing together. They’re laughing and pushing and restacking themselves. In a year’s time this grace will expire, they will avert their eyes and decline to speak. They will never recover this moment.
A thin boy with bony cheeks, reading a small paperback. He stares at the page and then smiles, contented, like he’s seen the face of an old friend there. He tips the book and I can see that it’s filled with a list of names and tabulated numbers. Where some of the numbers would be are question marks. At the top it says, “ELEMENTARY PARTICLES.” After a while he flips ahead and lights on another page, “THE RICHTER EARTHQUAKE SCALE.” He has friends there too.
Two brown-haired girls in identical dresses, a couple of sizes apart. The older one’s hair is straight and her face plain, with a downward turn at the corner of her brown eyes. The younger one has a halo of curls, a face like a heart, and eyes the color of wet slate. She spins around the pole while her sister watches mournfully from her proper seat. It will always be like this between them.
Everyone knows the heat is coming. The children are already wilted. The old ladies are smoking cigarettes on the sidewalks, wearing frowns and housedresses.
I heard her before I saw her. A little girl alone on the deserted sidewalk in front of a brownstone, with a stack of dusky red encylopedias next to her. She had one volume propped up against her belly, and a humorless intensity in her face. She was swiveling from side to side, showing off her wares and calling out like a sideshow tout: “C’mon get your Book of Knowledge. It’s all in the Book of Knowledge.”