by Neva Bodin
I missed that I was to post on the 4th, so here is one for today. A fiction short story.
Penny sat watching the sea gulls picking at the French fries scattered about the McDonald’s parking lot in San Francisco and pondered what to do next. She should be picking up those French fries herself, and would, if she had the energy. Running away, even from an impossible situation that sucked the life out of her, spent its own form of energy. She had gone from trying to mentally survive with sanity intact, to mentally and physically surviving, with anything intact. And she’d only been gone two days.
Life now was as empty as her brother’s crib.
She wished her family was whole and everyone was at home watching their favorite TV show–”Home Improvement.” They’d laugh, and her parents would tease each other like two kids. She’d bake cookies to give her little brother.
She wished she were in Hawaii…Maui, to be specific. That had been a happy time. She may as well think about it since she had no further plans for her current situation, but to keep sitting on this curb, hoping something or someone would rescue her from her own lack of direction.
A small whirlwind threw some fine sand from the street at her face. The tears that formed in her eyes were from that of course. She looked up and noticed a thunderhead in the sky. She remembered the book she’d read about a horse named Thunderhead. Wouldn’t it be neat if a big white horse appeared right now, and knelt for her to get on his back and gallop away.
If she was in Maui, she knew from experience, the weather would be warm, the grass green and soft, the ocean blue-green and busy lapping at the beach. She had even seen an Octopus while out on a tour boat there. A small Hawaiian girl named Lei Lana had been her best friend for a week. They’d had tea together on the motel’s lanai, each drinking from a fancy tea cup. Two girls like Hawaiian princesses . She had been eight then, her father and mother together, her baby brother giggling and cooing. The knife of reality sliced into her thoughts–none of that existed anymore.
Forcefully placing her mind back in Maui, she remembered watching a native Hawaiian weave baskets out of palm leaves; snorkeling in an abandoned volcano cone; marveling at flying fish turning silver in the sunlight, then magically disappearing into the mysterious, welcoming ocean. She had seen colorful birds, fluffy white clouds, brilliant red sunsets as the sun pooled onto the watery horizon, and sat between her parents, safe and loved. A different life. Before now.
Now memories consisted of a mental snap shot of her baby brother in his casket, pale and wax-like; her parents fighting; her mother’s sobbing; her father slamming doors. The cocoon of love they had all nourished each other in had cracked when her brother had drowned in the neighbor’s pool, and instead of a butterfly emerging, or the Bluebird of happiness flying out, guilt, grief, and fear had emerged.
She didn’t see the pimp sitting in the shiny black Cadillac across from McDonalds. His dark glasses reflected the seagulls as he watched with trained eyes, surmising correctly he’d spotted another teenage runaway. New meat. His lucky day.
She looked tired, despondent and hungry–just ripe for picking. He loved clichés. He admired her long wavy, blond hair; it framed her face, it would be a beautiful face if he added some makeup. He opened the car door slowly, stretching his limbs in a languid manner, as if just needing a respite from sitting. His eyes never left the small form hunched on the curb, as the girl studied the trash-filled gutter where her feet rested. He started forward.
She was small, but as his stupid mother had always said when he’d complained that the kids called him puny, “The best things come in small packages, Timmy.” Yeah, these young chicks thought him harmless because he wasn’t big and tough looking. It worked to his advantage.
Just as he was half-way across the street, a blue Volkswagen bug stopped beside her. He couldn’t hear the conversation, or see her for a moment. But when the car drove off, she was gone. His curse was cut short by the screeching tires and slamming impact of the blue car breaking his legs, before his head dented the hood.
A month later, the ex-pimp struggled to hold his head up as he was strapped into his wheelchair. Weak, everything weak.
“Lucky you’re little, Mr. Morton,” one of the young girls that had just transferred him off the bed to the chair said. “We can handle you!” she smiled. She placed his head between the supports on the headrest of the wheelchair, strapping it in place. “Your neck isn’t strong enough yet,” she said, “You’re weaving all over like that pussy willow outside your window when the wind blows.” Her blonde hair, loosely caught in a pony tail, had wavy strands hanging in her eyes as she bent over; something niggled his memory, but his memory was holey, he couldn’t connect the dots in it. “Connect the dots,” he smiled. He liked that saying. He tried to voice his thoughts, but nothing came out.
“Time to eat,” a nurse walked into the room. She had a bag of white liquid she hung on a pole. She lifted his hospital pajama top and connected a soft rubber tube to another tube protruding from his abdomen. Milky liquid started to drip into his stomach. “Pretend it’s an apple,” she laughed, pleased with her own humor. “With sugar and cinnamon on it,” she added. “He’s kind of cute,” she whispered to the girls.
The two young girls began changing his bed sheets, chattering like magpies, he thought. He tried to rotate his head to watch them, forgetting it was strapped in place.
“I remember my mother hanging our sheets at home on the line in the yard, umm, they always smelled so good when I brought them in,” the brunette said. “Where did you grow up?”
“In San Francisco,” the blonde girl answered. “It was fun, until…until my brother died and my parents divorced.”
“Oh, my, I’m sorry,” her companion sympathized as they finished the bed. “Where are you living now?”
“With my mom, in a different neighborhood than I grew up in. I ran away from home, but she found me. She made me come back home, said she was afraid for me. She was crying when she found me. Actually, I was fine. I’m sixteen and I can take care of myself. Nothing bad was going to happen to me. I was just resting beside a McDonald’s when she found me. She thought a pimp nearby was eyeing me.”
“But, I got her to let me go to Nurses’ Aide training so I could get a job. So that’s how I ended up here. Someday I’m going to have my own place, own a horse, get married and have kids. I’ll be done with my parents. I don’t even see my dad anymore anyway.”
“I wondered how this Mr. Tim Morton got to be in the shape he’s in?” the blonde continued as they left the patient’s room.