Moments of Sunshine in My Pocket

High school kids pile into an SUV in the DSA parking lot, seats filling quickly. Three more loiter around the open back gate, not wanting to clamber into that cramped space behind the seats. Finally the boy driving has a mini-tantrum, jumps up and down and yells: “just get in so we can go for food!” They do. Jammed together, but food the magic motivator.


I hear a loud boom, pause, boom, at the upstairs window see a young man in the alley, apparently lifting something heavy, flipping it over: boom, pause, boom. Privacy fences do their job: limit visibility. I see the young man’s head, his arms up to push, hear the thudding sound, watch him rest, then bend so his head disappears. Phil can’t stand it, goes out to ask, “hey buddy, can’t you roll that thing?” It’s a truck tire, nearly as tall as he is. We are unclear on the concept. The young man is Scott, lives on the corner and this is his workout: flipping a giant truck tire up and down the alley. Does it once a week, he says.


It’s a regular socialist party at Lake Steam today: three elderly women wrapped toga style in white sheets eat lunch in the dining room. “We got to catch up with the rest of the civilized world on health care,” says one. The second asks, “We already have socialized police, fire, education—what’s the big deal?” “Right, a single payer system,” snaps the third. “And put a lid on those damn Big Pharma companies.”


At the Y we have finished our workout and are leaving, when we realize a group of four young men are dancing on the steps outside the front doors while another on the sidewalk films them on his phone. Then we hear the music and see they are doing Y-M-C-A. We wait until the filming ends to step outside. “Is that going viral?” Phil asks. They all laugh. “We hope so.”


In the last two weeks of school, I assigned my 8th grade writers a goodbye and now four vocal music students huddle around one computer, reading what Martin has written, about saying goodbye to his treble voice, and to middle school, and to the best friends he’s ever had. They have a box of tissues beside them and take turns reading aloud, choking up so someone else has to take over, all four dabbing at their eyes and reading the whole thing over again, one more time.

When I ask them to share something from their brainstormed goodbye lists, one boy says, “__________’s leaving,” and several applaud. I didn’t hear what he said, was about to ask him to repeat. But Hattie heard, knew who he meant and jumped into indignant action. “I can’t believe you said that and people applauded. How could you be so mean?” Thank God for the Hatties, without whom we’d devolve as fast as the kids in Lord of the Flies.


Phil gets on an elevator with one black woman, says that it’s certainly a gloomy day. “Yes,” she replies, smiling, “but I always keep some sunshine in my pocket.”


I am watering the flowerbed in the parking strip when a family comes walking along the sidewalk. I make sure my hose is laying flat as they approach, a tubby guy and wife, with a large dog on a tight leash, another guy who looks related to the first one, a woman and two young girls, fair-haired, probably seven and ten. As they are passing me, the tubby guy says, “you can spray the kids if you want.” “Really?” I asked. “Yeah, sure,” he says, so I flip the spray quickly, twice in their direction. Satisfying shrieks. As they move down the block, Dad calls out, “Thanks.”


I’m at my laptop, hear the thudding boom, pause, boom, don’t bother to look: I know who it is.


Taking the Quebec exit from I-70, we pass an SUV pulled onto the shoulder, smoke pouring from beneath the raised hood. A man with phone to his ear has backed 20 feet from it. Looking over my shoulder as we pass, I see orange flames leaping from the engine compartment. Before we stop at the bottom of the ramp, a semi truck and a pickup have also pulled over, their drivers getting out, one with a fire extinguisher on his shoulder, headed for the glowing flames. “Those are real men,” Phil says. Men ready to stop at a moment’s notice, prepared for action. Those are the helpers, the ones we count on in any emergency or disaster, the ones who restore faith.

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6 Responses to Moments of Sunshine in My Pocket

  1. Kayser Sociay says:

    Fun notes! Little quick cuts in the film of life. You always have an eye and ear for humanity at its best.

  2. C.M. Mayo says:

    Oh, Pat I just love your blog.

  3. Jana says:

    Congratulations on such a milestone! I’ve loved everyone. These felt like a series of Flash Fiction–though I guess they are Flash non-fiction. Bravo!!

  4. Renardo says:

    enjoyed the read. Keep on keepin on.

  5. Sylvia Montero says:

    Too Funny! You guys! Words of the wise!

  6. Bob Jaeger says:

    Wonderful snapshots, Pat. Have a great summer!

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