Ball of Fire

It’s Friday afternoon and the Bistro’s dead. I’m outside catching some sun. I read somewhere that you need fifteen minutes of solar exposure to get your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D. Without enough you run the risk of developing everything from osteoporosis to schizophrenia. As photons that traveled 99 million miles strike my face I smile to myself. I don’t have to worry about schizophrenia at my age. It’s like male pattern baldness – if I didn’t get it by now I probably never will. But I’m pale as a ghost and I’ve got weak bones in my family.

I lean against the front door and sigh. The sun feels good against my skin. For the thousandth time I remember that all life depends on a colossal ball of fire hanging in the sky. No wonder ancient man worshipped it.

A skimpily clad jogger, no doubt an acolyte of Apollo, races towards me. As she effortlessly propels herself along the pavement I smile at her. She smiles back. I unsuccessfully resist the urge to sneak a peek at her rump as she flashes past. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Somehow I get over my guilt.

The sun has brought everyone outside. Two young mothers, chattering aimlessly as they walk in tandem, busily sweep pedestrians off the sidewalk with their urban assault carriages. An old woman, supporting herself on a walker with wheels, refuses to get out of their way. The mothers, huffing and puffing, detour onto the street to circumvent her.

“Age before beauty,” the old woman chuckles as she rolls past me.

“You have them beat on both counts Madam,” I say gallantly.

“Thank you young man,” the old woman says – a “you’re nice but full of shit” smile on her face.

“Madam,” I say nodding, “Enjoy this beautiful day.”

“I will thank you.”

As I watch the old woman wheel away a man comes up to me.

“Say buddy,” the guy says, looking rather pained. “Can I use your bathroom?”

I’m slightly annoyed. People are always asking to use our bathroom. But this guy looks like he has to go.

“Sure pal,” I reply, “Back and to your right.”

“Thanks man,” the guy says rushing inside. I just hope he remembers to flush.

I return to leaning against the front door. Claude, our local homeless guy, is across the street bundled in his winter coat. He’ll wear that thing straight through August. I wonder if schizophrenia affects how a person senses temperature. I shake my head. Claude never takes his meds. Maybe there’s something to that Vitamin D thing.

The guy who needed the bathroom exits the front door. “Thanks again man.”

“No problem,” I answer.

The jogger babe runs past again. She must be on the return leg of her circuit. I succumb to temptation again. Claude doesn’t notice her. The pizza guy steps outside of his shop and lights up a cigarette. He notices the jogger and smiles. Suddenly a hippie kid starts playing his guitar outside the Starbucks. I don’t recognize the tune. A small crowd of shaggy haired kids gather around him. They’re all smoking, drinking coffee out of paper cups, and laughing. Nicotine, caffeine and sunshine. Oh well, they’re young and indestructible.

Claude shuffles past them. The kids pay him no mind. Then the young mothers bluster through, clipping people with their carriages as they head into Starbucks for a five dollar cup of coffee. A kid yelps and jumps out of the way. He says something I can’t hear. One of the mothers scowls at him. The other kids laugh. Claude turns around to look. The pizza guy, who’s known these kids all their lives, barks at them. They shut up. The mothers head inside. Claude walks away.

I look at my watch. Fifteen minutes have elapsed. I head back inside.

And the Great Ball of Fire continues tumbling westward – timeless, uncaring, and indispensable.


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