Hot rays of sunshine pierced through the branches of the big oak tree on our front lawn, making a pretty pattern in the grass that moved as the wind fluttered the branches and leaves. My dad was setting up the sprinkler while my friends and I waited anxiously in our swimsuits under the shade of the big tree.
It was the middle of August in Southern California, in a small suburb not too far from Los Angeles, and the heat from the summer sun was relentless. We even sweated in the shade, and the wind blew hot in our faces.
Our chatter stopped when we heard the faucet being turned on, sputtering as the water began to rush through the hose. We watched with anticipation until the mechanical sounds of the sprinkler sprang to life, ticking rhythmically as it spun and shot out the cold water like a fountain. My dad laughed and shook his head at us and our squeals of excitement before heading back into the house.
We took turns running through the water, giggling and screaming as the water hit us. Even though it was scorching hot, the water was still cold at first; but, it wasn’t long before the cool water was more of a relief than a shock.
Our neighbor Audrey walked by, on her way to the supermarket next to our house. Audrey’s family lived at the end of the street, and they had a big swimming pool that they never invited anyone in the neighborhood to go to. She never played with us, we never played with her, and none of anyone’s parents talked to her parents, except for my dad who went out of his way to be friendly with everyone.
Kathy, who was indisputably the bully of the neighborhood, pointed and laughed at Audrey as she passed. Audrey was wearing flip flops and shorts pulled over her swimsuit; her ponytail still wet from her pool. She hung her head as she passed, which seemed to encourage my other friends to join Kathy in taunting her. More times than not I was on the receiving end of Kathy’s bullying, so watching it happen to someone else made me feel uneasy. I proposed a game of tag to distract everyone, and it worked; Audrey and her swimming pool were quickly a distant memory as we played.
As the hours passed, and the sun started to retreat from its position high in the sky, the weather began to change from the heat of scorching hellfire to barely tolerable. Barbara, our neighbor across the street came outside, propping up lawn chairs for her and her husband under their tree. Barbara wore a flowered housecoat (always clean and pressed) over her round frame; her grey and white hair perfectly coiffed. She smiled at us as she sat down, waving us over when her husband Henry came out of their house carrying boxes of ice cream.
We ran over, wrapped in our towels, and pilfered through all of the boxes: popsicles, big sticks and creamsicles. I took an orange creamsicle and plopped on their lawn, looking out across the street at my house, the red brick house that was the only two-story on the whole block. We ate ice cream at Barbara and Henry’s feet, laughing and telling stories until the sun started to go down.
Wired telephone poles were black silhouettes in the orange and purple sky, the yellow of the sun still glowing on the horizon as it set. My mom came out on the porch and waved at me from across the street; it was time to come home. Barbara gave me a hug before I left, and I ran home to my red brick house, the only two-story on the whole block.