Late July

Late July

Ella stepped over the weak floorboard, pivoted and leaned to lock the front door with the key that dangled from her neck. Two rooms back in the shotgun apartment her mom and dad wearily crumpled into each other’s arms. She went to check on them before leaving and they looked like they always did on Sunday mornings when she couldn’t sleep and they only could: Frozen in an isolation booth, never minding the heat that or the traffic that came pouring in through the window.

After the click of the dead bolt sounded, she scurried down the hall and stairs and opened up the door to the outside. The humidity and heat hit her like never before (except yesterday, and the entire month before that) and she let out a phew. Her plastic shoes started to fill with sweat and the plastic lenses in front of her face steamed up. The weather was smothering and made anyone want to quit just about anything they were doing, but this was the day that Ella waited for each week. She turned the corner and set off.

The neighborhood at this time was neither safe or reputably dangerous. Shouting and sirens after scuffles could be heard most nights and a few days; especially in this heat. Everyone was irritable to points that they had otherwise not known. But there were no worries for Ella. It was hers.

Sunday mornings were relatively quiet in the neighborhood, but Ella made it a point to still seem as busy as possible: She weaved in between the Nuns, ran across crosswalks, and always walked at such a pace so as to when she would stop at Monty’s for a egg cream she had to catch her breath at the counter before the drink came to her without asking. Monty didn’t know the girl, really, or engage her in conversation, but relatively speaking she was a good tipper and wanted to keep her as a customer. She sipped the drink and he came back to her side of the counter with the paper from that morning which he never seemed to read but always had ready to do so. Through the window, the day’s scene unfolded between the ligatures and counters of s’ytnoM. A slurp would signify the end of that and Ella would be on her way.

The chill of egg cream and slightly cooled sweat barely lasted when she stepped back outside. There were six more blocks, and by the end of the first a few salty droplets ran from where her knee bent. Each time they fell it made her itch and she hurried along faster.