A Hot Summer Day
Tar Balls and Ozone*
Summer days were played out on my street. The days were hot. The heat bounced, shimmered and ascended to vapor. Wally said, “You can fry an egg on Wealth Avenue today.” We cooled off at the Olneyville Boys Club, a river, a pond, or under a sprinkler.
“Listen to those sewing bees,” Wally said. The elusive creatures droned with a fever pitch. I looked for them on the wires hanging between telephone poles that marched in rows along the sidewalk. Was it a dragon fly or a sewing bee?
The mixture of the smells of summer… street tar, a hint of the dump, the steam from the rain, the smell of rubber, the green of a cut lawn, the paint of a freshly painted house, dust from the street, dirt of the garden, the sweat of a game … penetrated the neighborhood and hit me when I exited my house.
Tar balls were a street product; made by pushing a Popsicle stick into the softened street and rolling it to a ball. Rolls became as big as a baseball, and then hardened in our cool cellar. The tar that stuck to my hands, my pants and my shirt annoyed my mother. I threw the balls away.
The splattering raindrops changed things. They intensified the reflection of the sun that bounced off the street; their vapors carrying a steamy smell. It was unique …warm, chemical, as fresh as a peach and as stale as a musty cellar. I learned later in science class that it was the smell of ozone; oxygen with an extra molecule.
I welcomed the rain… running home to put on my bathing suit, to cool under the drops while enjoying the mist that hit me in the face and the smell that penetrated my nostrils. I was part of it…running, twisting, silently singing, “I love the rain on a hot summer day. I feel clean and fresh and free.”
I looked at the downspouts trickling like a small spring, and I thought, “That sounds so nice.” Tar balls and rain and ozone defined the hot summer days.
At night, I lay my head on my cool pillow, feeling the softness of a warm breeze and listening to cicadas, droning at a different tempo. I thought about summer days while wishing the night away.
* Courtesy of Barking Cat Books