Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Story: The Night Witches

Months before the fire—the big one that cuts up through the homes in our hills like a plane through a flock of doves—I see Rochelle in the street. It’s a Sunday. She has her hand in some guy’s pocket. Her hair is paler than I remember it, and it hangs down around her face like she still cuts it herself. She is tanned, broken-in, like she’s been living outdoors all these years.

“Is that Rochi?” I ask Hope, forgetting that Hope never knew Rochelle.

Hope is pointing out the pneumatic metal ostrich to Noah as it hisses and clanks past us. He studies it from up on Hope’s shoulders with a look like he’s swallowed a spider. It’s a moment of summer in Santa Cruz as drawn by Miyazaki: creatures of many colors leap and strut and caper in the street. Pyrotechnic children and dogs with wings grin from alleyways. Cosplay cyborgs loom in doorways. Shops are filled with clockwork angels and satyrs on stilts. Demons with mechanical jaws and painted breasts laugh and hoist lattes. A Victorian house rolls by. A snail-car shoots fire from metal horns.

Rochelle extracts the guy’s wallet. He has no idea—just another Santa Cruz dad in tie-dyed t-shirt and cargo shorts and sandals. As Rochelle tucks his wallet into the front pocket of her jean jacket, he watches a passing steampunk submarine. She glances around to see if anyone has noticed, and she sees me watching. I can’t tell if she recognizes me. Then she turns and pushes her way back into the crowd.

I lean forward and tell Hope I’ll be back. She can’t hear me but nods in her way that says what the hell?—mouth tight, eyes looking back at me over Noah’s thigh, and then away. We aren’t doing well this summer.

---

The Night Witches will be coming out in my next collection, "Bigfoots In Paradise" from Red Hen Press in the fall of 2018.  But why wait?  Read more of The Night Witches at New World Writing.

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