Hello all. This is a very rough draft of what I would like to become a short narrative hopefully for publication within the next year. I had the idea this morning and by 4 pm now have the bones of the narrative down. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated:) Thanks, Jessica Crockett
The night had been unexpected due to lack of high winds the nightly news predisposed us into gathering bottled water and bulk crackers for. But the crackers and water would last, it wasn’t about the French cupboard filled with wheat and seeds crackers, their boxes bent and scrunched, it was about the trip to the store to get those damn crackers. Roman hadn’t finished his homework on account of the pending storm stressing him out and Sabrina just kept on turning the dial to find a station that must not have existed because she kept slowing down through the static parts. Or perhaps it was so that the static gave her room to scold Roman one more time about his future depending on that online physical education class and that if physical education was too hard, well, she would never be able to see him doing anything in the real world. And here we were again. A stoplight so red it seemed to just linger there, holding my siblings and me in what I deemed hellish in the least.
The stoplight was stationary, no swing. Not even a light breeze jiggling the wire it pulled to a mini V in the middle, strung up there most likely by the volunteer construction crew of Puyallup because the city was so small that we, the people, called it a town just to keep it small and cross our fingers that it would never be mapped for development. There was a flock of birds that passed over my dust-finished Jeep, awry in size as they seemed swollen and dipped a little lower than a flock generally would dip at street-light level. What would cause a small flock of birds to swell up like that? Did they get into some bushes with bad berries? Could berries even go bad? Getting a double-finger poke into the place on my side forearm with the most flesh since I had and still do have as my Oma tells me, “German arms, shutzie,” was not my favorite place but there it was; “What the fuck are you doing, Jessica? Are you fucking blind? The light’s green, do you know what green means?” Sabrina kept jabbing me with this two finger method where she keept them close, like she’d have to fit both into a peanut butter jar to fish out something she’d dropped in there, like maybe one of her rings had slipped off. I could tell I was going to bruise since I bruise like a peach.
I thrust my foot against the clutch and waited for the alternator to catch second gear. The light was almost yellow before we’d gotten through but I just couldn’t shake those berries. Parking was easy, no people in the lot to zig and zag around and walking into the one of two corner stores was always a b-line movement because there was always someone smoking outside that knew you or would try their very best. Sabrina was going to wait in the car but Roman sure wasn’t, not with her on her period, he said (and she was, I later checked, as a feminist). Roman and I grabbed what we needed to feed our small unit for a few days and I asked Clark the clerk about berries. “Can they rot on the branch? Have you seen the birds today? Yes, swollen, I don’t know just swollen.” Clark gave me a few kind theories on water pollution and to the best of his abilities, pregnancy since Valentine’s Day he could gather had only been a month ago. I loved Clark once but I didn’t even notice when it faded so I guess it was an odd kind of love that I just assumed would take care of itself.
Getting back on the road somehow had put Sabrina on edge. “Your turns are so wide and too fast. I mean who doesn’t see a green light?” I knew that she had been angry with me for a while now, but I still wasn’t sure about what. I still wasn’t sure about why I let her jab me without response but I suppose I somehow thought that I had deserved it. But what had I done? And was it at Miss Maggie’s vineyard that the birds could have eaten rotten grapes?”
Boom. The Jeep spun for what seemed like six full turns and landed on Roman’s side. Sabrina and I were suspended, seatbelts tight with our handing gummy necks, she unconscious and me blinking in the glass, slowly, because at least I could blink. I unhooked myself and tore into Roman’s jacket to unzip his multiple motorcycle jacket zippers because I smelled gas. I smelled gas and I heard a flock of birds overhead. It took me six months to remember that the car never blew, but Roman’s body was denser than I’d imagined such a humor-filled teen’s could be. Wasn’t humor supposed to be light? If he was in water I’d always assumed he could laugh his way to the surface.
It was a broad buck, square at the shoulders but weak in one hoof, leaning to his left to brace the impressive weight he carried across that one-way street. He had hit us in the side but in a way where he lowered his head into the door, aware or a last second decision. The sheriff—George said that stranger things had happened, but that day on the whole had felt pretty strange. He’d asked if I’d been drinking and assured me that he had to do so for the paperwork. This reminded me of the vineyard but I said no because I hadn’t been and I told him about all of the crackers in the car, that he should just go look and see that I was coming from the Jackpot. He didn’t and I knew George’s daughter who told me that he knew I was on my way home for the storm and that you just can’t trust wildlife.
Roman was in the hospital for six weeks with “around-the-clock care,” the nurses told me, even though I recall opening his jello more than twice. I bought Roman a nicer wheelchair because insurance wheelchairs don’t come with handgrips and if he was going to have any fingerprints left, he was going to need a store-bought chair. Buying that chair took a chunk from my college savings but was the only large gift I was ever able to give Roman after my sister went into a year-long shock-mute and he had the time to finish his physical education online class and then some. After the wheelchair I never bought a gift again. I never bought anything outside necessity. Like a hunter, I gathered only what my unit needed and what I could carry. And I never forgot those birds either, their swollen underbellies, from the salt I would later find out was being strung up in block licks for the wildlife by the volunteer conservationists.