Chicken smoke and dirty feet

“Daddy.”
“Daddy.”
“Daddy!”
“Daddy, can we have fluffy tonic participle actors?!” said Dolly, jolting me awake where I had nodded off in our comfy chair. As I remember it, I said something about going to bed (I hope) and re-closed my eyes as I tried to interpret exactly what it was that she asked me.
Best not to provide parental oversight in a semi-dream state.
Some unknown amount of time after that, I caught wind of myself. The eye-opening aromas of grill smoke, barbecue sauce, and beer made a compelling reason to shower and go to bed.
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By whatever time that actually was, everyone else was snoring. It had been quite a day. Our neighborhood’s annual goodbye-to-summer block party, held in the park down the street, had run from late afternoon to well after dark. We were all worn out: Pinball from running around in the park for four hours straight, mostly barefoot; my wife from chasing Pinball; Dolly from advantageously running around just out of our sight, also mostly barefoot; Dolly’s friend from running around with her (we were hosting a sleepover); and Buddy from running around at his friend’s house for the whole day, I assume barefoot, because he was when he tore through the front door yelling like a scalded banshee. Bad day for shoes.
I hardly noticed; I had been too busy grilling.
I was among some neighbors assigned to cook the half ton of burgers, hotdogs, and chicken for the party. We had six grills going, which turned out to be wise. People were emptying trays as quickly as we were loading them. I had to dodge several eaters who raced up to the grill to see what I was cooking. More than two hours passed before I knew how long it had been.
It felt like a whole summer’s worth of grilling in one afternoon, but I was glad for it. The weather was a gift. The family had a great time. We got to see people we don’t often get to talk to, which I realized was odd because these are the ones who live closest to us – there was lots of quick catching up and drive-by conversation. And of course, there was all of the food. Sunset came quickly.
The walk home was very slow.
Early the next morning, nobody had so much as stirred. Everyone still lay where they fell on their beds, nice and peaceful. Just how I like Sunday mornings. But a little short of ideal. As I detected a bit of lingering grill smoke, summer, I knew, was now well and truly over.
But I got to have an entire cup of coffee without having to reheat it.

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