The Blue Bird (part two)

Oil painting of city inundated by flood waters

Short Stories

The Blue Bird
(part two)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Did you see who brought it?”

They did.”

“I know, but did you see them?”

The woman ripped the tape, emptied a box and started filling it, disproportionate in coffee, grabbing cocoa, off-brand cookies. Someone else arrived and set to work, endorsing the woman’s pattern as official.

Packets of cutlery and powdered soup began to litter the floor.

Spoons and forks snapped off their handles, a salty onion smell rose, brown grit grinding underfoot. Gitana had been going to heft the water upstairs first, but gave up on kind thoughts, and decided to fill her own box.

Two more arrived, through the door and not the building, breaking the silence. But the words exchanged were imperatives and admonitions.

“Gimme a sec.”

“Don’t take all that…”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!”

Gitana toed away a rolling can… Shrugged, and snatched it up. She jumped down and grabbed a water jug.

In the middle of the afternoon, someone knocked at her door.

She sat eating crackers, her book laid aside (all these fictional mundanities—bad marriages, kids rebelling—grown so hopeless). She swiveled a chessboard, playing white, then black. When she looked, there was another box, small, its contents sheathed in bubble wrap. Inside were two flashlights.

The hall was empty.

But the box had come a minute ago, the floor above, if they worked in logical order, still to finish. She stuck a flashlight in each pocket of her robe, thinking of these as precious, a thing not to have stolen, while her money, her gold jewelry…

She left her door standing open, as she would not have in the past.

No electric, no elevator…and only one staircase that gave onto the parking lot. She darted to the fourth floor.

Someone in a worker’s vest bent, one hand on a trolley, the other in the act of dropping a box.

“Hey!”

He grunted, standing, and said, “Hey.”

She glanced at his chest, looking for a badge. “What happened? What was it?”

“I couldn’t tell you.”

He stared into the space between her body and the wall. He shouldered the trolley and made for the exit.

Gitana did nothing yet. She walked back slowly, turning things over.

 

 

3

 

 


 

 

A terrible accident, the experience of it no different for her or anyone else, in this pocket of the wider world. But you were hired, summoned face to face…it must have been like that.

Given a task to do. And so you would ask this official, this soldier or emergency worker—

What happened?

No one had touched the boxes. They were all there, resting on carpet before closed doors.

The worker’s instructor had said to him… Don’t speak to anyone?

Now it was too late, she knew she ought to have followed, caught him before he drove off, shouted: “Where are you going? Who gave you this job?”

She thought of this competing mystery.

She knocked, and called, “Hello?”

Whoever lived here had gone someplace. They had all gone someplace. She went pounding and rattling knobs, got to the landing and turned to watch. No door tentatively inched back. No head craned out.

 

Gitana began to plan an expedition. For one night more she would bide her time, venture it when morning promised hours of light. The idea was the angel on her shoulder’s, batting down suggestions from the other side, that this desertion was eerie. Dave’s word.

Days ago she had walked alone with an umbrella against the ash, to the line of barricades where people were turning their cars…

She could spare some water, stopper the sink and wash. She could put on fresh clothes, fill a thermos, pack snacks, writing paper and pen, and take another walk. Her camera still had life in its battery.

 

 

Behind her building a fence topped a hump of grass that separated the parking lot from an off-limits retention pond. The fence lay flat. Around the pond would be the short way, cutting past the outer streets and landing her downtown.

She pointed her camera, zoomed to get a better look.

No movement of uniforms, no flashing lights, no traffic at all. There was a park area belonging to a psychiatric clinic, a concrete bench under a black plum, an abstract sculpture showing human forms embracing. The gate, opposite, of a condo complex.

A block farther was a bookstore—that her lens could not reach—but in the coffee niche, she knew, was a bulletin board. It would be consolation enough to find the store open. Gitana was beginning to feel singled out, as though others had been evacuated; as though, invisibly, she had been assessed and found unqualified.

 

 

4

 

 


The Blue Bird

Virtual cover for Short Story collectionSee more stories on Short Stories page
The Blue Bird (part three)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(2018, Stephanie Foster)

 

 

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