He woke with a sneeze, quickly followed by two more. He blew his nose on the soggy, snotty handkerchief from under his pillow. His eyes were stuck shut with snot and gunk. Joe managed to pry open the right one as he stumbled down the hall to the bathroom. Warm water unstuck the left as well as a few eye lashes.
He padded to the kitchen. His pajama top was snapped crooked. "Good morning sunshine" his Mom happily intoned. She was sitting at the breakfast bar drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette. He got a bowl and the box of Quisp cereal from the cabinet. His Mom poured the milk. He could hear the washing machine running. He scratched his thick dark hair. He sniffed. His Mom handed him a Kleenex, without saying a word.
After breakfast he brushed his teeth and pulled on cutoff jeans, the legs fringed. He remembered he forgot to take off his pajama shorts first and had to start over. He searched through the drawer looking for his favorite red tank top. Joe would wear it every day if he could. He settled on a blue one. Snot was running down his nose.
"Mom, can I go over to the park?" Yes to the park, no to the dime for the concession stand. He knew it was a long shot first thing in the morning. The spring on the wooden screen door stretched and the door banged closed as he went into the garage.
As he mounted his red stingray bike he heard his Mother yell at him from the laundry room "Joe, put on shoes if you are riding your bike". He pretended he did not hear.
He jumped the bike over the curb and tried to pull a "wheelie" as he pedaled faster. The sissy bar was too far back on the banana seat to help. No one was out playing as he rode the three blocks to the park. The park was likewise empty. He looked back across the wide open grass toward the railroad tracks and the drainage ditch. He rode towards the culvert that went under the tracks.
Dismounting, he crushed a few crawdad holes and poked a stick in another. None came crawling out. He squished his bare feet into the mud and soggy grass at the edge of the shallow water. No fish were to be seen. There never were. He rinsed his feet in the thin stream. As always, he peered up into the murky depths of the large sycamore near the ditch. Billy McKenzie said he caught a bat there. Joe had seen the bat, wrapped in netting. Having a bat would be cool. None was to be spied. The boy absentmindedly pulled up the tail of his shirt and blew his nose. Only then did it occur to him he had a handkerchief in his back pocket. He used it to smear the snot on his shirt.
The boy picked up a thin stick and swished it through the air like a whip. He mounted his red bike and pedaled around the neighborhood, whipping imaginary horses. Mostly he liked the sound it made whistling through the air.. Bored, he threw the stick into old man Vice's yard because he knew the old man would freak out about it. The old man yelled at any kid who came close to his grass. Old man Vice mowed every day and was a fanatic about his yard.
Joe noticed some empty Coke bottles tossed out from a car, near the stop sign. He skidded to a stop and studied them. Three bottles, that was nine cents in returnable deposit at the supermarket.. He tried wedging one of the bottles into the bike frame without success. He could not think of a way to carry three empty bottles on his bike. He left them beside the street and peddled on.
As he neared the Redmond house he instinctively stood up and pumped the pedals as fast as possible. As he zoomed past, their collie-dalmatian mix came tearing around the corner barking furiously at the bike rider. Joe was past before the dog got a good run at him. The dog stopped, panting. The mutt gave a last bark, acknowledging today's winner.
It was just another summer morning.