THERE’S A FRONT PAGE PHOTO OF MY friend Jos standing by the side of a road on a hot summer day. I almost don’t recognize him, because he’s out of place. It’s a frozen moment in time—but I’m so used to Jos being animated, funny and moving. It bothers me that one picture can define everything in other people’s minds but never really tell the whole story.
A cop in dark shades is touching him on the arm. Gently. The photographer was close, ’cause you can see every line on the cop’s and Jos’s face. There weren’t any lines an hour before.
• • •
It’s early. Everything is quiet. Too quiet. I turn on the radio to make sure there hasn’t been some kind of world-ending disaster. Hell—they do happen. More than you could ever dream they do. I’ve seen them, been a part of them, don’t even have to watch the news to see one happening.
My feet are cool on the old hardwood floors, and I don’t even mind that I’m still trying to work out a splinter. I walk to the front window.
I love the cool.
And I love the feeling I get knowing I’m walking on floors people walked on a hundred years ago. I blow the candle out ’cause finally the sun is struggling past the clouds.
The radio crackles as I stare out at Lake Erie haze.
I press my face against the window and feel cobwebs on the side of my head but don’t pull back. If I listen close I can hear cars blowing past on the road about a hundred yards away.
I listen for Curtis over the drone of the radio—I do it without thinking. Then I see the groundhogs through the window and start peeling apples for them.
I do it like I breathe or walk to the sink to get a glass of water.
It starts to rain, and I watch like the photographer did on that burning hot summer day, while rain streaks every inch of the window.
Angela Johnson has won three Coretta Scott King Awards, one each for her novels The First Part Last, Heaven, and Toning the Sweep. The First Part Last was also the recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is also the author of the novels Looking for Red and A Certain October. Her books for younger readers include the Coretta Scott King Honor Book When I Am Old with You, illustrated by David Soman; Wind Flyers and I Dream of Trains, both illustrated by Loren Long; and Lottie Paris Lives Here and its sequel Lottie Paris and the Best Place, both illustrated by Scott M. Fischer. Additional picture books include A Sweet Smell of Roses, Just Like Josh Gibson, The Day Ray Got Away, and All Different Now. In recognition of her outstanding talent, Angela was named a 2003 MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Kent, Ohio. Visit her at AJohnsonAuthor.com.