Clusters of children and parents gather in front of a handful of stores on Main Street. The participating stores are marked by colorful balloons. Employees sit in folding chairs on the sidewalk, giving away candy. Other than these patches of people, the business district is quiet and most stores are closed.
In the diner, I become aware of a persistent sputtering sound to my left. A woman is at a booth with a toddler in her lap. He is moving in a kind of ritualistic squirm, blowing air and saliva through his lips in a discernible rhythm. He wears what looks like a blue helmet.
The mother eats briskly, but does not seem to hurry. She holds the child with one arm loosely enough to give him freedom to move but tightly enough that he doesn’t fall or escape. His squirming requires that she take care navigating each bite of omelet from the plate to her mouth. As she eats, she stares at a point to the right of her plate, as though reading a book.
The sputtering sound becomes louder, and the toddler expels greater quantities of saliva.
A man heading toward the cash register pauses at her table and asks the child’s age. The woman smiles and replies. I hear her reply, but forget it immediately.
When I stand to leave, I see that the boy’s helmet has a large opening at the top—about the circumference of the saucer under the woman’s coffee cup.
Outside, I squint in the brightness. An elderly woman is crossing the street diagonally, in the middle of the block. She is carrying a small covered dish. I watch her open the side door of a bowling alley.
A chubby boy in black dress pants and a white dress shirt is bouncing a basketball as he walks on the opposite sidewalk. He bounces the ball slowly, smiling faintly with each bounce. Still walking, he tosses the ball up, using both hands, catching it without breaking stride. Once, twice. The ball is floating.