The doors to the pet shop are open. Empty fish tanks are stacked near the entrance. Brightly colored fish that could never fit into any of the tanks are painted on the shop windows. Paper birds, all smaller than the painted fish, dangle from the ceiling.
Next door is a dental clinic. Blue scaffolding and nets obscure the windows. Two people wearing scrubs and holding clipboards stand next to the entrance. A woman pushing a simple baby stroller—holding only a quiet child, not a beverage or a heap of toys—stops, nods at the child, and asks one of them a question.
A man leans over the table he has set up on the sidewalk. He restacks the baby shoes that are teetering near the edge of his display. Belts dangle off of the table like parched leather tongues. A small cardboard sign advertises that all items cost two dollars each.
A city bus approaches the intersection and pulls away from the curb to make a right turn. Pedestrians in the street begin to jog: The bus has not slowed down. While turning, it passes within one foot of the people still in the crosswalk.
Across the street, 20-story brick buildings loom overhead. In each window is an air conditioner. Torn plastic bags, sheets of newspaper, empty beverage cups, and other detritus collects in the corners between the buildings and chain-link fences. Only the afternoon breeze visits the blue slides, green monkey bars, and yellow animal sculptures.
The kids are crowded in the ice cream shop, many looking at the menu affixed to the wall. Firehouse is the flavor of the month. The boys jostle each other; the girls point at the buckets of ice cream in the glass case. The city traffic drowns out their laughter.
Five of them exit the ice cream shop. Puberty has begun to play with their body shapes. Their school uniforms cannot hide this. One of them, a young man, looks over his shoulder and remarks to the group, “We’re in the ghetto. Downtown, that’s where all the white people are.”