Cartoon illustration of girl holding newspaper open in front of her face to read while walking into a parking meter.

— an excerpt from my Steady Ender essays —

Our house on Cannonball Road faced the railroad station which was also the bus depot for New York City commuters.

New York was less than an hour away and consumed my dreams.

It would be years before I could drive my own car, or go to other towns alone, so the train’s whistle, and the bus fumes summoned a yearning in me to wander far beyond the corner store.

Trudy’s taxi stand faced the station as well, and it was triple the excitement to hear the radio dispatches, listen to the rumble of the train, and watch the people get on and off the New York City bus. It overwhelmed my imagination.

The city passengers usually carried a newspaper in some way – folded under their arm, tucked in a large purse, or simply rolled up in their hands. Besides feeding their intellects, it was also very handy when there was a sudden shower. Umbrellas were practical, but sheltering with a newspaper somehow displayed a scholarly spontaneity.

I made it a practice to walk down Main Street to Smith’s shoe store to discuss my life’s dreams as well as being terribly misunderstood at home with Ollie, the store manager. She was so comforting and had a variety of lollipops at the ready. The red ones were the most soothing.

One day as I was leaving the store, I spotted a Daily News on one of the chairs. It was folded in fly-swatter mode, and I grabbed it as I left.

Now I was back on Main Street, and I unfolded the paper, reading as I walked.

I was hoping the whole town was watching me.

“Is that the girl who plays baseball better than any Little Leaguer, and who is also destined to star on Broadway?”

My visual display of intelligence would only add a feather to my accolades.

I passed by my cousin who was fixing the chain on his bike. He nodded my way – seemingly unimpressed, but then, we didn’t have much else in common than fishing.

I continued to walk at a brisk pace with scholarly confidence – my eyes were fixed on the paper.

The very last thing on my mind was the fact that I was the exact same height as the parking meters.

The sound of the metal re-verb after my head hit the parking meter, was startling. I don’t remember immediate pain as I dropped my newspaper amidst the shock of it all.

Of course I looked around, dreading that someone may have witnessed the event. There was no one and no passing cars, to my relief.

I collected myself and went home.

My mom looked at me and gasped . . . “What happened to your head?!!!”

I tried to ignore the fist -sized bump on my forehead which was now turning many colors and was also throbbing.

At this point I had to come up with something other than what actually took place.

“Oh, I missed a fly ball.”

Mind you, I would rarely miss a fly ball and it pained me to use that as an explanation, but she bought it.

As I held an ice pack on my goose egg, I had to put my plans for publicly exhibiting my intelligence on hold indefinitely . . . or, at least, until the swelling went down.

Smiling leslie zurla in her home office with her large sleepy cat looking over her shoulder.

Read more from Leslie Zurla’s Steady Ender series

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