The Senses Of Summer

It was another sultry summer evening in Berea, Ohio. I sat perched in a sturdy maple tree in the backyard where I could survey my kingdom. Everything was mine when I was 10 years old, including the future. Through the fine screen of the porch, I could see my dad’s crossed legs on the lounge chair, his back to me, his head resting as he dozed. Occasional breezes blew through and lifted the sounds of the Cleveland Indians’ play-by-play man from a transistor radio that sat on his lap. Next to the porch, I could hear the water turn on and off through another window as Mom scrubbed and rinsed the dinner dishes.

Occasionally, two pots would clank together, and the rings on the pan’s handles clanged. To this day, that sound reminds me of home (try listening to it someday–you‘ll agree, I’ll bet). My dog Scruffy–a mixed breed we got from the pound–sat under the tree, gnawing a stick about the size of a building rafter. He was small, but he thought big. A muffled voice rang out intermittently from across the back field where the schoolyard always hosted kids for baseball, kickball and evenings of “kick the can.”

Burnt Wicks And Roasted Hot Dogs

Patrick came over from across the street, and without a word, scaled the tree and sat on the branch across from me. He produced two pieces of Bazooka Bubble Gum and gave me one while he chomped the other. It was warm from his pocket, so it loosened up enough to blow a bubble right away. I reached over and tried to press the cowlick of hair that always stood up on Patrick’s head, but it came right back. I laughed and he swatted my hand away. People were always doing that to him.

He took a pack of ladyfinger firecrackers and matches from his pocket and smiled at me. We hopped down from the tree, and crept around the side of the house. My sisters were washing their bikes and using S.O.S pads to shine the chrome wheels. I held the crackers, and Patrick lit them. I tossed them just beyond where the girls were working, and when the firecrackers went off, the girls screamed even louder than we’d hoped for. My younger sister went right in to tell on me, and my older sister just shook her head. We were scolded through the window, but nothing more than that. Pat said, “Do I have to go home?” Mom never answered, which we took as a “no.”

The air was heavy that night, and the scent of burning charcoal wafted through the neighborhood. Most charcoal grilling was done by the dads, and the excuse from the moms was, “Who wants to heat the kitchen up on a night like this?” “What did you guys eat,” Pat asked. “Hot dogs and burgers,” I replied as I knelt to pick up a caterpillar. He nodded slowly and said, “Any left?” I looked in the “icebox” and found at least six uncooked dogs. Since we had no buns, we just took the loaf of Wonder bread and a bottle of ketchup with us. The coals were still hot, so we put four dogs on and sat at the picnic table, flicking ants off into oblivion. We’d both eaten a huge dinner, but were at that age when we were never full. With four dogs cooking, that left two raw, which we ate like pieces of thick baloney. Pat had eaten a big dinner, too, but there was never a time when something like a hot dog didn’t sound like a good idea.

Syrupy Soda Pop

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