Up in Smoke

UpInSmokeAlthough I believe in hope, in working to make change, in gathering forces for the better and all that, I did not want to be back here. We should have done whatever we could have done so that we could have stayed in Rehoboth Beach. I could have gotten a job running the frog toss at Funland. Heather could have worked at that gift shop that has all the goddamn sea shells. And Maggie could maybe start selling her drawings of bug-eyed girls, or better yet, start doing counterfeit Henry Darger paintings. That would bring in the money. Then maybe we could afford to live in Rehoboth Beach instead of Front Royal.

Then this morning, when I was walking out of the Martin’s for my first post-vacation trip to the grocery store, a woman in a convertible grinned at me as I loaded up the mini-van. I looked back at her, and she couldn’t stop grinning. She was a plump, gray-haired woman—not a church lady, not a suburban soccer mom, and not a Blue Mountain grandma making her weekly trip to town. She was, possibly, one of us.

“You look just like Cheech Marin,” she marveled. “When he was just starting out.”

“When he was just starting out?” I asked, to make sure I heard that last part right.

“Yeah, when he was just becoming famous.” The whole time she never broke out of her ear to ear grin.

I was getting ready to step into my mini-van after having loaded it up with, among other things, Lucky Charms cereal, Sponge-Bob crushable yogurt cups, and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur slow melt popsicles.

What she said on that Monday morning, as my beach dreams went up in smoke, was probably the best thing anyone could have said to me at that moment.

-Jose Padua

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