It is hot as hell itself out here, the mailman says. 97 degrees and climbing, the weatherman says. Go get us some ice, girl, my old man says.
My keds are squishing with sweat between my toes. I got those blue keds for my birthday two years ago. Good thing they's open toed-shoes because they too small now. My feet pad a long the sidewalk, finding their way around big roots and cracks. They know the way, I've walked down this street eight million times before. I don't have to look down.
"Shelby!" Mrs. Portman yells out her second-story window. "Hold on there a second, honey!" her shadow disappears and I can hear her moving sluggishly down the stairs, out to the street where I am standing. She drops three quarters in my hand, two for the ice machine and one for me. I pad on, the quarters jingling in my palm like treasure.
All the kids are running around on the block, playing with a fire hydrant somebody broked open. None of them is older than eight and the littler they is, the less clothes they's wearing. I remember when I was a naked baby, running around on the street in nothing but my cloth diaper to fend off the heat. Those kids used to be my bestest friends but now I am ten and I have better work to be doing than to be running around outside.
It's kinda nice here in Brooklyn. We used to be out on the street when I was real, real little, but I don't hardly remember that. Anyways, whenever I's passing a street person I's always dropping them a nickel or a piece of bread. Karma, my moma calls that. We live in a one-bedroom with little heating and less space, but we got a roof and a 'frigerator that usually works, and even cold Cokes from the deli on Saturday. Even though six kids and two growed-ups share our little space every single person has half a bed and shoes and a tin lunch box with peanut butter sandwiches in it for lunch. Even sometimes hair ribbons and crayons, on payday.
There's a little girl with six white ribbons braided into her hair mopping the stoop I's walking by. She dunking her head in the clean-water bucket, letting the mercyful water run all down her cotton dress. She looks so hot. It reminds me I have ice to be getting.
Aunt Peach's Deli is two blocks north and one block left, sandwiched right in between a barber shop and a bakery. I head in and slip four of my five quarters into the machine and two large buckets of ice pop out. Then I walk up to the counter and buy me a cold lemonade with my other quarter.
The walk home is long and slow with those buckets, but I rush to get them back before they melts. It's not too bad, living in a place like Brooklyn, when there's ice machines and lemonade on a hot, hot day.