Patrick Corrigan decided to throw a party while hanging upside-down on the schoolyard swings. Ideas often came to him this way. He felt he thought better with the blood rushing to his head. Patrick told this to Christine Donatello who sat on the swing beside him, immediately she flung herself backwards to join him. Two heads filled with blood were better than one.
For a while they said nothing content to stare at the world in reverse with their feet dangling in the air. It was Christine who spoke first.
“It’s weird how the world looks different when you see it from another direction,” she said, her long brown hair dragged on the ground, “It’s the same, just different.”
Patrick agreed. He thought about how he would lie in his mother’s hatchback looking up through the sloped rear window. The tips of trees and lampposts would whirl by and rooftops rested gently on clouds as the moon kept pace in semi-darkness. The upside-down world was rarely glimpsed by anyone other than children and how silly the right-side world became when seen from this perspective.
Christine and Patrick sat for a long time looking out over their neighborhood. From the top of the hillcrest Havertown spread out in a neat grid. Seemingly endless rows of brick homes one after another and all the same. Patrick lived in one of those houses, Christine in another just three doors down. Every house had the same layout inside. The only things different were the furniture and the paint on the walls. Children knew where they lived not by learning their address but by counting how far your house was from the corner. Patrick was two houses in on Roosevelt Drive, Christine was five. Havertown itself was just a short trolley ride away from Philadelphia but it might as well have been on the other side of the world. Have-No-Town is what the older kids called it.
In pleasant times the sameness could be intimidating. And the summer of ‘79 had been hot and unpleasant. A haze hung over the town for months like an invisible film. There was a feeling of futility that year. No matter how long adults stood outside with green garden hoses at full blast the lawns still turned brown, the juniper bushes lining the sidewalks dried and crumbled, the flowers in the window boxes wilted. Families spent the majority of the time indoors huddled around window air conditioners complaining. Oppressive they called it. Everyone couldn’t wait for that summer to end. Everyone but Patrick, for Patrick it was the greatest summer of his life.
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