Friday, July 4, 2008

August. So hot, so humid, everything sticks. Walking feels more like wading in this heavy air. The road in front of the house is blacktop.
Even so, dust clings to everything. Everywhere else is green and lush, summer at its zenith, trees fully leafed, flowers fully bloomed, and for the children a sense that time is fully stopped, hanging in the air.
But it is morning and the heat has not yet stilled their thirst for adventure. Through the house, the end of the road beckons.
"Mom, can we have a picnic lunch?"
"I guess so. What do you have planned?"
"We're going to ride our bikes to the end of the road."We're going to watch the planes."
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper are dropped into brown paper bags. Apples. School thermoses filled with Kool-Aid. Potato chips. Mom packs a mean picnic.
Today, though, when tennis shoes meet bike pedals, the children turn the other way, a blue Huffy and a red Schwinn roll down the driveway and turn left onto the old, pot-holed road.
No traffic today. Mid-morning, mid-week, mid-summer, and not many cars have a need to travel down this country road. Across the way, deep in old Mrs Goike's pasture, cows drowse. Next door, the Goike house is closed up. The Goikes and their five kids away on vacation. Down at the corner, Mrs. Goike's dad pokes at his garden with a hoe. He waves at the children as they ride by.
Waiting for two cars to pass, they cross 21-Mile Road to the next leg of Sugarbush. Here, the trees grow close to the edge of the road, their branches sometimes meeting overhead. The sugar-beet fields that gave the road its name no longer exist. The air is a little cooler here, under the leafy canopy.
The bikes pass the Little Store, windows boarded over now. When they were younger, the children ran here on errands for mom. Now they pass the house where Stella and her brother Doug live. Their mom is really nice, but the kids woder why she doesn't stand up straight. She walks all hunched over like a witch. It will be many years before they hear of osteoporosis. Their dad is kind of scary and mean. As she rides by, the girl thinks of brown beer bottles.
Shirley's house sits in its yard on the right, like an old white hen on its next. Nothing moves. Somewhere a bird calls out. In the distance a dog barks.
Kathy's house is at the end of a long, long driveway. Her older brother is big and blonde. Kathy is so quiet and shy it is hard to be friends with her.
A little farther on they pass Kingsbury Drive, and now the trees thin out and finally end. All around is empty field. Out there, in all that field, is the end of the runway.
The ditch running alongside the road is dry. Here the children drop their bikes and settle into the cushion of the long grass. Cross-legged, they open paper bags whose tops have already begun to disintegrate from the grasp of sweaty hands.
In the distance a jet engine roars to life. Shining eyes focus on the far end of the runway. The jet shimmers in the haze and gathers speed. As it moves closer and closer, wheels lifting from the tarmac and folding into its belly, then roaring overhead into the sky.
"That was a C-5!" shouts the boy. He knows them all.
The girl doesn't care. She cringes at the noise, revels in the speed, and takes a bite of her sandwich.
This is how they pass the morning. The boy bounces with the joy of each take-off. Planes fascinate He dreams of being a jet pilot. She dreams of the places the planes are going.
It is a moment in their lives--a moment of fullness. Later they will stuff the remains of their picnic back into the paper bags. They will ride their bikes back home.

1 comment:

Skye said...

What a wonderful story..It was very clear with very real feelings..Thank you for sharing..