No Parking

The street was a street was a street. Dark at night. Orange lighting the way from twenty or so feet above. Garbled conversations and trash and vomit sometimes. She studied them endlessly. She knew where the cracks were if she wanted to avoid them. Six beers under her arm. She would only drink three, unless the mood struck or she had a guest, then they’d drink until there was no more beer, or until the store closed. Many nights she waited for the second or third beer to inspire some type of memory like it used to when she was young. She didn’t want to admit to herself that it simply didn’t work anymore, nor could she possibly admit to being afraid of the written words that had yet to spring from her mind.

Across the street from her house, a parking and traffic officer paced with his ticket pad in hand. He stopped to flash his led light into the left corner of the window to see the VIN number while the man with the orange reflecting stripes on his jump suit secured the car to the lift. The blinds on the third floor were drawn to a discrete close. A student ran up as the truck pulled away. “But there’s a motorcyle here also in the red.” He was out of breath and panicking.“I didn’t get a call about that.”
The matter of fact tone was not lost on the student. “You’re an asshole.” “It’s my job.” Just like his English professor.
“To be an asshole?” He could be smart too.
“To write tickets.” An argyle sweater peeked down from his holiday lighted balcony, then hurriedly stepped inside and closed the door.

She approached the student cautiously. “I’m pretty sure it was the guys on the third floor.”
He studied the crisp piece of paper. “This is ridiculous. I park there all the time!”
“Those guys are on their own private crusade.”
“Easy crusade for them, they’ve got a garage.”
“Thanks for the info.”
“No problem. Good luck with the parking nazis.”
The student turned and hustled down the block. Probably to catch the bus. She shrugged and entered her house with a sigh.

On the phone with her mother was a similar conversation they’d been having for decades. She could almost predict it. She let her attention drift, staying close enough to hear the news. ”
Your father is fine, a little tired, my back is still bothering me-” (after twenty-two years), “-your brother is finishing his doctorate work. He’ll want us to come up and visit when it’s over. Are you going anywhere this summer? It would be nice for us all to meet up at your Grandfather’s house. It’s going to be his ninetieth birthday in June… On the bus I’m on my way down all the girls seem to be… “Do you remember that?”
“Huh?” She’d gone too far.
“That earthquake. Didn’t you just have one up there?”
“Yeah, we did. I didn’t feel it though, I was asleep.”
“Oh I would have felt it.”
“Yeah, I know. I remember that one back in ’94.”
“That’s what I was talking about!”
“Sorry, the phone must have cut out. It’s amazing this technology that brought us all the way back to the beginning of the phone age.”
“You’re so cynical.”
“I prefer skeptical.”
“What ever it is. You’re in a mood tonight.”
“I’m not in a mood tonight. I’m just tired. It was a long day.”
“Well, I’ll let you go. Let me know when you’re coming.”
“For what?”
“For Christmas. You’re coming home, aren’t you?”
“I always do.”
“When do you think you’ll be down?”
“I’m not sure. I’ll let you know.”

She didn’t like to drink when her mother was on the phone, but she’d made an exception tonight. In the quiet of her kitchen, she wondered if her mother could hear the sipping and gulping sounds. The brown bottle was place carefully on top of a pile of newspapers on the counter. Careful, but not cautious, she thought.

Just then a giant truck rammed itself into her apartment building starting three fires and wounding everyone tragically killing the baby.


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