Short Story: The Blue Bird (part four)
“So,” she told him, standing. “Here’s what I’ve decided for today. I’m going over to Glimmerings. I’m going to put a note up on the board, get in touch with me. I don’t care…”
She raised her voice. Dave was comfortable falling into his set expressions, and she had no use for another.
“…that the power will come on in a day or two, and that we’ll get to see a press conference and listen to a statement. I want to know if what I thought was what other people saw, what they thought. When it happened.”
Flatfooting up the slick park pavers, speeding along the pebbly walk…after a minute, she heard him there, a pace behind.
“You meant the bookstore.”
“I know, it’s the other way. I saw someone up here…who might be one of them. I tried asking already. Only I hadn’t got mad yet, you know? I let myself be put off.”
This place, with chairs and tables in the window, had been a coffee shop. Would be, if the world was really normal, again in a day or two. The man had tinkered, his body blocking the handle. Inside, more than one person moved; from the locked front door to the service counter, light receded to shadow.
No one had announced martial law. She was free to walk the streets…she ought to be free to speak as she chose. She banged the window with a fist: “Hey! Open up!”
He looked at her through his aviators. He sipped from a paper cup.
Dave, seen over her shoulder in reflection, seemed to offer the man a sheepish smile. Gitana raised her camera and snapped a picture, the reflection catching the swing of the lens cap and the flash.
“They’re not coming out,” Dave said. “You walking down to the bookstore?”
He turned, and made for the intersection. Maneuvering himself in charge…
But no. Leave it aside, she told herself. It was handy Dave had been willing to be her companion on this errand. Gitana this time caught up.
And here, on the multi-laned thoroughfare that exited to the beltway, something had happened. They saw two cars parked in a loading zone, doors and front seats removed. Vandalized…stripped for evidence… No signs about the darkened storefronts, or the clean pavement, of disorder.
From below the overpass came the sound of engines, almost the everyday highway traffic. Opposite was an outlet store, a mini-mall organized as ateliers, each featuring one designer’s seasonal failures; a three-story sheath of photographed scenes airbrushed on glass. Since the façade’s being scaffolded into place a year ago, Gitana had never shopped here.
The inside door stood open. The outside door was unlocked.
She saw two women parting hangers on racks. The light was natural, barely enough…but above the escalator, and beaming from an office behind, were fluorescent fixtures, on.
“There you go,” Dave said.
TV screens hanging on adjustable arms over the sales counter popped, a pulse of music timed to catwalk quick-cuts shooting a prism of color into the dark space. Fashion news.
“I can’t change the channel. Sorry. It’s set to loop.”
One of the women had moved to the register. “Are you looking for anything special? We just moved a bunch of stuff to clearance.”
“No…” Gitana said.
Dave had his phone out. He was being sensible. She felt for hers, let the news play with the sound off, and shunted apart cardigans. The chyron gave the temperature…a thunderstorm warning. A code associated with this she had never seen, and couldn’t decipher: a blue pentagon with a number three.
A reporter came on, microphone in the face of a woman wrapped in a blanket, but smiling, her words crawling up: “We’re pretty lucky.”
The first clerk had acknowledged it. The other hadn’t. She was more the normal, then, in her way. Gitana, feeling under scrutiny, pressured to go along, picked up a sweater.
“Listen, are we still together?” Dave asked her. “Or do you need me for anything?”
“Go home. I’m fine.” She moved to the mirror.
She dropped her knapsack, switched on the light, stepped into the kitchen to check the refrigerator. She dumped the puddled water from the ice bin. She turned the cold tap, wondering if that was overconfident. But air burst, a stream flowed steadily.
The Blue Bird
(2019, Stephanie Foster)