A Story About Summer

In the thick of summer, distances tend to disappear. Driving east along Venice in the winter, the San Bernadino Mountains stand out, backdrop for a scene in a movie yet to be written or just a reminder of a world beyond. This afternoon, there was only an opaque scrim of haze and ozone and exhaust, a gently curving dome arcing from the horizon somewhere up into the washed-out blue of an Angeleno summer.

I walked down the street for lunch when we made it home. Pigeons sniping at grass seed scattered on a newly plotted verge. Two men in white tanktops working at leveling the dirt of an apartment unit across the way that seems to be perpetually in a state of almost repaired. A woman is selling snow cones beside the grocery truck parked at Kenmore and 3rd. She is talking to someone while I walk by; almost past, and she calls out hopefully, Snow cone. I smile and say no thanks, cross the street. She'd been talking on the phone about just needing to make a little extra money, that was why she was trying this: a collapsible table with a thick plastic top, school fair size snow cone machine set on top with three half-filled jugs of syrup beside.

I step in for lunch across the street. Me da un burrito adobado, I say, y un medium lemonade. Para llevar? the clerk asks. Para aquí, I say, taking a seat. The restaurant is heavy with the heat of the grill. The women behind the counter talk slowly to each other. I sit and glance around the room: Jesus is My Lord Read the Bible in three languages on the walls, faded Pentecostal posters framed higher up. A man orders, sits down to wait for his food. Another man motions to him from outside. I can't make out what's so important until I finish lunch. The man outside has a parakeet on his arm, is trying to coax it onto a small plastic horse fit for children.

The grocery store across the street is at shift change, and people move through the aisles slowly: mothers sheltering small daughters through the produce, abuelas shell dried tamarind, me. Walking home with six dollars worth of produce, I pass by the woman selling snow cones. She is on the phone again, but pauses to call out hopefully, Snow cone? No thanks, I reply, shuffling my way up the block to an apartment still dripping with afternoon heat.


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