As long as I can remember, we have been summering on Long Island’s East End. My mother always begins her story with, “you were just a baby cutting you’re first teeth on our beach in Amagansett”. The summer began in a jam packed station wagon on the Long Island Expressway. There was excitement in the air as the six of us were riding out east to summer paradise. The sun was nothing more than a dying blaze on the horizon as the L.I.E lit up like strings of Christmas lights. We were still miles away from the Manorville Road exit and our regular stop at the little trailer on the side of the road that procured the delicious hotdogs with onion sauce. “Were not stopping at Gracie’s, so don’t ask,” Dad declared to the family. My bother Peter groaned and my stomach agreed. “Let’s just get out there. We’ll order an Astros pie.” We looked forward to those delicious dogs, but aside from that, Gracie’s meant escaping the stagnant air and close confines of the car. The skin on my arm was beginning to stick to Pete’s. I found this particularly disturbing as our perspiration comingled and formed glue between us. “CHRIST, my dad suddenly bellowed, white- knuckled, squeezing the red licorice steering wheel. “CRAMPS,” he said, fighting through an ugly grimace. You could tell it was serious pain. His skinny legs weren’t use to all this stop and go action. “Here Jim, eat some banana and drink this water.” Mom said, reaching into her bag, speaking with a nurse’s wisdom.
While this commotion was transpiring, Katie sat quietly in the way back, pretending to shave her legs with mom’s razor.
“What’s the matter, why is Katie crying?” Dad fired out as she began wailing.
“Ugh um MOM, Katie cut her leg with a razor,” said Pete arching over the seat. Katie’s face had quickly become ruddy and wet with tears. My mother was prone to hysterics the second she saw blood from one of her babies. With all hell breaking loose, Big Jim had no choice but to pull off at Gracie’s. Katie’s cut was promptly bandaged with bacitracin and her tears were drying as we ate yummy hotdogs and fries. The shaving incident was equivalent to throwing a rock in a pond that took a time for the ripples to disappear and calm to be restored again. “Ah that was good,” said Dad, finishing a long sip of cola from a perspiring soda cup. Leaving with bellies full, it was immediately apparent to everyone that the traffic had not improved “Never used to be like this, RIDICULOUS,” he said exasperated.
“May be there’s an accident up ahead, Jim?”
“Na, it’s changing out here Karen. People are coming in droves; summer people.”
“WOW, that’s a sweet Ferrari!” Pete said as he chuckled, oblivious to the conversation up front. A green and white bus passed us on the shoulder to make a stop.
“What’s a jitney?”I asked.
“I think it’s a dance, honey.”
“It means what it is, A BUS, not the JITTERBUG! They are everywhere. You want to stop at Caldors Karen?”My father said, switching gears.
“Yeah, good idea, let’s go. The kids need new sandals.”
We exited the slow moving river of cars, opting to go shopping in the air-condition. I was engrossed by boogie boards when Peter runs frantically down the aisle.
“Jimmy lets go hurry! “
“Why? What’s going on?” I said alarmed by his suddenness. “Here take this,” Pete said handing me a soccer ball, grabbing at my shirt to pull me along. “Chill out, it’s PELE from the Cosmos in the checkout line.” Pele was a legendary soccer star and among the most recognizable athletes in the world. When we found Pele, he was still waiting to pay. The man had a gracious smile that could brighten even the darkest room. I didn’t even have to ask; he grabbed the ball from my hands and signed it against his thigh.
“You do this?” Pele asked as he dropped the ball, keeping it off the ground by using any part of his body except hands and arms. “You juggle de futball?” He asked, making the inert ball come to life and obey his will in the narrow space. I was speechless as he showered us with smiles and laughter.