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Hometown

By Sarah Dickerson

Iím sitting on the front porch of the house where I grew up, smoking a cigarette like a teenager. Itís dead quiet, cloudy and damp. I watch a single, fat blue jay screech madly at a yellow cat on the grass median strip in front of the house, flying back and forth from one tree branch to another, circling the cat. I think it wants the cat to go away. But the cat is in stalking position, swinging its tail, intent on watching the blue jay. They seem to have nothing better to do.

This is my hometown. I thought I was homesick, again, so here I am, again, bored stiff.

I should stay here and continue to witness this moment, but I stamp out my cigarette before anything comes of it and go back into the house. Before the bird swoops the cat. Before the cat nails the bird. The moment never changing.

Suddenly, in the distance, I hear the sound of squealing car tires. I quick run back outsideódonít want to miss this. The cat and the blue jay are gone, and someone, somewhere, is laying rubber. I hear it approaching. An old blue car, a big one that rides low in the back, a big old Olds, pulls up and stops fast at the sign in front of the house. There is a boy behind the wheel, alone in the car. He pauses at the stop sign, expressionless, and looks both ways. There is no one else around for blocks, not that I can see.

Then slowly, then fast, he revs his carís engine. He must have his foot on the brake, I think, because the engine whirs loud like itíll explode, and he sits there. He doesnít look angry. Doesnít even look like heís having fun. The tires suddenly spin, hard and fast, and squeal like mad. Then he lets go. Peels out.

I look up the street and there he sits at the next stop sign and he does it all over again, racing against no one from one stop sign to the next. Then further away, he does it again, repeating himself. I hear nothing else but the engineís rev and the pure, clean sound of burning rubber at equal intervals, the sound fading as he moves off, farther away. I hear nothing else, and nothing else happens.

Then I hear the few birds chirping.

Iíd forgotten this kind of boredom - like the boredom of children with no worries and nothing to do - how settling into its depths evolves into a kind of serenity. Iíd forgotten what happens when thereís nothing to do here, nothing to do but peel out at intersections, or sit and watch. Or witness cats and birds at odds. At moments like this, thereís beauty in laying rubber. All this stuff when thereís nothing to do. Nothing to do in oneís hometown but sit on a front porch and smoke.


 

Sarah Dickerson's essays have appeared in The Journal, The Fourth Genre, Fugue, Kaleidescope, The Giyon River Review and others. She is currently a visiting assistant professor at Grand Valley State University and a recent graduate of the University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program.

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