The air is heavy. I can feel it in my chest, that little sear of pain with each inhale. “Haze” my father called it. “It will burn off soon.” Burn it does, at least in my lungs. But it's 1952. I’m a kid and my energy level exceeds the need for a lung full of clean air. Los Angeles smog is just accepted as inevitable, and until the wind blows it off to sea or the rain brings the pollution down, we live with it.
It was a good day at school. I am in the fifth grade and today I wore my new saddle shoes. They look good, and the blisters on my heels are a small price to pay for being part of the after-school handball game. I’m walking home now, but the rubber ball bouncing on the asphalt and then hitting the backboard still rings in my ears. My fist opens and closes remembering the satisfying smack against the ball’s surface.
Someone has lit a fire and the smell of pine burning obscures the acrid smell of the smog. There’s a cool breeze, and some of the trees show they are getting ready to drop leaves. Their colors are muted, not brilliant, but still in California they let us know fall is here.
Will there be meatloaf for dinner tonight? Maybe. My grandmother will be there by now. It’s Thursday night, and she usually comes for dinner on Thursday. Meatloaf probably for sure. And baked potatoes. Maybe Coleslaw. My stomach is growling. I’m always hungry. Thursdays we have big dinners, not just a meat patty and some bread. I love Thursdays.
I am skipping now, in spite of the blisters. I can see my grandmother’s car in our driveway. Sprinklers are turned on all up and down the street, to keep the wide lawns green just a little bit longer. I skip close to the spray, mouth open, to catch a drop or two of water.
Then it’s up the three steps to our front porch. I can smell the meatloaf and baking potatoes from the door. Yep. Grandma’s here.