By Chip Walter
Walking down the street this afternoon with the hot sun on my back today made me think of the pick up sandlot baseball games Paul and Mickey and Larry would pull together almost every summer day a long time ago. It was hot those days, but we didn’t care. We pulled our baseball caps down a little farther, drank some more water from the garden hose, maybe slurped down a Mission pop (a cold cream soda was the best) if our moms’ would let us, and we stepped onto the hard granulated dirt of the “field” just beyond the army barracks to become Roberto Clemente (the Great One!) and Bill Mazeroski and Steve Blass and Willie Stargell.
In time, after many lost balls and singles and doubles and diving, skin-scoring catches on the rocky field, the paper man would come and it was time to deliver the afternoon Pittsburgh Press — the whole world every day in a nutshell.
The paper was both an entertainment and a mystery. Each day I slid the heaps of newsprint into the canvas bag we newsboys used to haul the accumulated reports from all corners of the planet — wars for independence, heroic rescues, rockets launched into space, A-Bomb tests, a president who was Catholic. And of course, the comics: L’il Abner, Dick Tracey, Beetle Bailey, Little Orphan Annie, and something new called Peanuts. By the time I had distributed the evening papers to the residents of Dianne, Linda and Marilynn Drives I figured I was the best informed 8 year old in the world.
If only it counted as homework.
Later, after dinner the bikes came out and we rode and dodged as motor cycle daredevils or jet pilots or Zorros under attack in great and frantic loops on the cracked asphalt roads all named for girls we didn’t know. Then, too soon, the streetlights came on. And then, no matter where I stood in the neighborhood, I’d hear dad’s remarkably clear and unmistakable whistle ring through the twilight, and I knew it was time for a bath in the basement tub (because I was so dirty), and to bed.
I’d ride home then with the steady, metallic thrum of the cicadas in my ears.
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