This piece was supposed to be a short flash fiction story, but it grew much larger as I wrote. I have divided it into parts. I hope you enjoy it. Drop me a note–I would love to hear from you.
Lost Angels and Black Birds Part 1
Wendell pulled the curtain back from the front window and stared out at the world beyond it. Gray clouds loomed off in the distance. He was certain if he stepped outside, the air would be thick with humidity. The curtains fell back into place and Wendell let out a long breath—a deep sigh to his old lady, one she didn’t hear since she was still snuggled up to a pillow in the bed.
He carefully made his way through the dark house, not bothering with the lights. He knew where everything was, and on the off occasion that something was out of place (that usually only occurred when the grands came by) his toes would find it and for several agonizing seconds they would bark at him in pain. That wasn’t the case on this early morning, where the sun was hidden away by the clouds and the birds twittered about on power lines.
Birds on a wire, he thought as he slid his pants on. They like to sing on the wires before a big storm. They will take flight soon. A sure sign, my Pappy always said.
A white undershirt went on, followed by a short sleeved button down, one that was loose and didn’t hug him tight; one good for working in. Socks and dusty work boots came next, rounded out by an old hat with a white B on it. This had belonged to his Pappy when Wendell was just a little boy, and that was sixty-two years in the past. It didn’t stand for Boston, but Brooklyn, as in the Dodgers before they moved to that damnable Lost Angels town. Though Pappy hated the move and never pulled for the Dodgers again (opting instead for the long time losers up in the Massachusetts area who also carried a B on their hats) he still wore the blue hat with the white letter.
Wendell sat for a moment at the kitchen table, thinking a bowl of cereal or a pancake or three would be nice. Maybe if it wasn’t going to be a gully washer of a day, he would have had both and washed it down with a cup of coffee. The table was just a round thing with an ugly orange Formica top that was speckled with black spots. On it was one of Jolene’s notepads and a pencil—always a pencil, she hated the way pens felt in her hand and the way it glided across paper. Wendell thought that was nonsense. Why wouldn’t you want your writing utensil to glide across the paper? Why wouldn’t you want it to be smooth, unlike pencils, which he always thought sounded like something trying to scratch an itch that just wouldn’t go away.
He pulled the pad and pencil to him. The pencil wasn’t much more than a nub, the tip whittled away to a dull point. Writing with something so small usually made his fingers cramp, but the note he would write wouldn’t be long, a few words, tops, to let Jolene know where he was at in case she woke up before he got home. This he suspected would happen.
I went for a drive. I found a field that could use a little love.
He set the pencil on top of the pad and flexed the fingers on his right hand. Even those few words made his fingers angry.
How am I supposed to work if my hands already bother me?
He stood and was careful about picking the chair up and pushing it under the table. Though he doubted she would wake if he let it scrape the floor, like with something not being in the right place in the house, there was an off chance she would get up, and then there would be no work done. At least not that he wanted to do.
Wendell left out the front door, pulling it shut behind him and making sure both key bolts were locked. He turned and looked around. The clouds were still off in the distance and they didn’t look like the storm-threatening ones he knew were coming in a few of hours. The air was heavy and wet.
Barry Steiner sat in his rocker a couple houses down and across the street. He already had his pipe lit up. Smoke slowly lifted in the air from its bowl. Barry gave a slow wave, just a sideways motion with his hand. Wendell did the same, but he didn’t think it was as difficult for him to do as it probably was for Barry.
He’s got to be pushing a hundred, Wendell thought.
The birds weren’t chirping, but they were on the power lines that ran the length of the street. There was easily a dozen or more and they all seemed to be looking down at him.
“Good morning, fellas,” Wendell said, but didn’t give a wave to them. No, not with Barry Steiner sitting on his porch, smoking his pipe and watching him just as the birds seemed to be. He reached his truck and looked inside the bed. His tools were there, including the ancient Honda lawn mower he got some thirty years ago.
Before getting in the truck, Wendell looked back over his shoulders. The birds were gone, their stares taken with them.
“I reckon I’ll see you there,” he said and got in. It didn’t matter how hard or gentle he closed the door, it always sounded like a slam. He thought of Jolene waking and coming out to see what he was up to. That thought vanished as he cranked up the old truck. If the slamming door didn’t wake her, then the rough rumble of the motor just might. He didn’t look back to the house. He just backed out the drive, put the truck in gear and drove off as gray smoke coughed from the exhaust.
(To be continued …)