Today it is a lime green bouncy ball. You know the kind. They come from one of those bubble vending machines in the entrances to grocery stores. The kind that take a quarter and give something plastic with that smell that is like Christmas from the ‘70s.
I was in a parking lot. Waiting. The car was too hot and the wind was just enough to cool the skin without taking bites out of me. My fedora was pulled low to keep it on my head and my sunglasses had a thumb print in the middle of the right lens that wouldn’t wipe off. Rural, grass creeping in on the pavement, low brick business, awning sun bleached to a rust color. It was the kind of waiting that I didn’t want to do, the kind of thing you don’t want to wait for. I rested my heels against the sidewalk and stared at the threadbare clouds.
The bouncy ball was right there, between the tips of my shoes. Translucent, Jello green. Quick look around and there was nothing else save a cigarette butt and a crushed beer can. No evidence of kids, owners, collectors. Just an empty parking lot. And the ball.
I started by rolling it. Taps between each shoe, green flashes in the new summer sun. A few kicks against the sidewalk and a wild bounce that sent it rocketing through the parking lot. It ricocheted off cars, dead ended in grass and made a little rubber sound against a soda bottle. I didn’t notice the people staring at me in the waiting room, tinted windows hiding them. I didn’t notice until a patron of the business I was waiting in front of unlocked his car door, security system bleep and the end of the bouncy ball. It sailed off, the final kick fueled by the bleep. The patron and I watched it vanish into the grass.
Today it was a green ball but just as frequently it is a story, one that is found suddenly in a place I wasn’t looking. It spends time being kicked around, the object of my fascination until the last push—then free. I wasn’t sad to see the little bouncy ball go. As a hatted, bearded, broad-shouldered Montanan, I can only imagine what observers thought as I shuffled around the parking lot kicking a lime green sphere between my old-man shoes. But that too is like these stories I write, that all writers write. We work so hard, enjoy them so suddenly and them let them go–out to the reader, the observer. I wonder frequently what my readers think, what they feel. I wonder how hard they will kick the ball I send to them, how it might help them through a rough patch in a parking lot, how it might encourage them to put a quarter into a vending machine in the lobby of a grocery just to smell that smell, the one smell remembered from so long ago.