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Cats tiptoe along broken sidewalks, two men tinker under the hood of a Chevy pickup, the scent of grease and dishwater mingles with the gray, still air, and on E and F and G streets people walk, in twos and threes and whole families, down to the center. The tsunami zone. Where the hands on the tall blue street clocks glide.

Alone on a corner a block from the F Street Plaza, a girl rolls a slow tune on her green banjo. Another girl stands statue straight in a blue doorway with her ukulele; she sings high, sweet, a little off key. A guy balances a greasy plate of Smug's pizza on a wood post, dank coolness leaks from the Pearl, and inside the Vance the Fortuna Camera Club is gathering. Old Town is doors-open -- music thrums, people wander in and out of galleries sniffing the paint and proclaiming they liked the frame, the scrubbed wood floor, the way the dog jutted paws-and-head from the wall, the leaf shimmer, the misty cliffs, the way those red blotches looked like robots. Or streetlamps.

Loud chatter in the square, and cheers. Shrieks. Thin Perico, from Chile, is again atop his high unicycle juggling knives. Soon Candy Pants Broken Glass will be landing with her bare feet -- crunch! -- onto the pile of jaggy glass bits.

The merry clown-haired fellows are still a block away, pedaling a behemoth kinetic sculpture as slow-fastly as they can. The sky hangs, thin and gray. Plump, inked arms extend, pulled by dogs. Kids squeal, splashing in the fountain. Zoltar ("I see you over there!") accosts another hip couple -- him in buff Carhartts and North Face fleece, her in black mini, lace tights, knee-high boots and a flowery hoodie.

Blue cake. Yellow cake. Green cake. Students sell goodies so they can get to Belize. Calvary Chapel will say a prayer for you. Another group offers rainbows. A councilwoman stumps for more time. Anna sells paper roses. A waft of medicine tickles the nose.

The clock hands move ... then it's 7:07 p.m. Marty backs his carriage closer to the crowd, white horse ears-atwitch. Chatter-roar-laugh-shriek-thumpa-dee-thumpety-drums-splash-Whooo!

On the boardwalk, where the teenagers have gathered in cliques, a pelican launches from the wood railing and rises up, out, over boats and bay. Tilts to sweep over the town, wings slowly pumping, pulling everything into the vortex: salt air, salmon, towns, redwoods, ocean, rivers, sunny south and sunny east, foggy heart.

Minutes have ticked past, but it's still 707. Forever.


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About The Author

Heidi Walters

Heidi Walters worked as a staff writer at the North Coast Journal from 2005 to 2015.

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