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The Hypotenuse Shortcut

By Penny Cooper

It was a late afternoon in June, and yet another sudden thunderstorm had just ended. The schoolyard in back of P.S. 139 was usually filled with kids, but now I was the only person there. The square-shaped schoolyard is probably about one hundred feet on each side, and the two entrances, one on each street, almost form a diagonal, the hypotenuse, they call it in geometry, that line of a triangle opposite the right angle.

I often walk through the schoolyard on my way home from food shopping on Sixty-Third  Drive, and on this day the air smelled squeaky clean.  Somehow the rain had lowered the humidity and I felt refreshed.  And then I saw it and could not believe what I was seeing.  Arched over the schoolyard, pastel stripes, glistening, suspended in the air in a semi-circle, glowing red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.  I was so stunned, I forgot to take a picture with my camera I never leave home without. I barely breathed.  I realized I was still holding my grocery bags since I didn’t want to risk putting them down.  The rainbow lasted only a few minutes, but I’ll never forget how enthralling it felt to be surrounded by a rainbow.

Several weeks later, the schoolyard held another surprise when I took the hypotenuse shortcut home.  It was mid-July.  I made my way through treacherous obstacles: kids on bikes, kids on noisy skate boards, kids playing catch.  When I stopped to watch a boy perfecting his jump shots I suddenly noticed there was a vivid, colorful mural painted on a concrete wall.  I assumed it was a recent school project, maybe painted by the older sixth graders.

There’s a cheery canary yellow sky painted from Booth to Wetherole Streets.  There are huge flowers and plants only a child could have designed, painted in pastel colors just like you’d find in a rainbow.  There’s a chubby little UFO with three windows in the yellow sky, and a cute friendly robot wearing clothes.  His T-shirt says, “P.S. 139Q” (the Q stands for Queens), and in his right hand he holds a flower.  This robot obviously isn’t here to destroy our planet. In the middle of the mural, about half-way between the streets, it says “P.S. 139” again, and in big, fat, capital letters resembling graffiti under that, are the words, “WHERE DREAMS BEGIN.”


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