Author: Adina Davis
Location: Belmont, Massachusetts
Adina Davis is a member of the Bay State Scribblers.
This is her first published story, with another forthcoming in Night Train
. She thanks Jamie Cat Callan for the word, the Scribblers and Carol Parikh for their careful reading and thoughtful comments over many revisions, and Jon Jacobs for the pennies.
Peering through the curtains of her ground-floor apartment, she watches the gray sedan maneuver into a parking space across the street. Two men emerge, their faces like rocks. If they push her bell, she'll just let it buzz.
Once when he was five, Henry bellied down the smooth lip of the wishing pool in the park, scooping out pennies that people had tossed in for luck. Arms dripping wet, cradling copper, he brought her his treasure. "You put that back right now," she said. "That’s stealing." His face crumpled, but he obeyed. He was a good boy like that. She remembers the fragile arc of his spine as he bent over the pool, coins splashing through the skin of pale water.
The men advance. She hears the soles of their heavy black shoes scrape against the concrete steps outside her window.
My Henry, she thinks, all stick-out ears and sunshine grin; his voice deeper than you might expect given his slightness. His quick laugh and jokey way with friends. The handful of girls he’d brought home for her approval. His little boy smell, so like wet dog; his teenage mixture of motor oil and aftershave. Eighteen years of Henry’s scents overlaid by the quiet perfume of her fabric softener.
The men stand at the top step now, separated from her by mere inches of brick, plaster, and glass. Peeking out, she sees them bend toward the directory, scanning for a name.
Over the years, she's tucked some of Henry's things away in a felt-lined box in her closet: the brown plastic dinosaur he named Scrappy Doo; construction paper snowflakes; drawings of space monsters he’d been obsessed with at eight and nine and ten; his roller coaster report cards. On top of everything lie printouts of the e-mails he sends her now from Baghdad. He ends each the same way: "Love ya, Mom. Stay strong."
The men find their target. They press her bell. Its blare shatters the morning. If she could, she'd disappear inside the cool blue muslin of her curtains. Then they couldn't tell her what they mean to tell her. If it can’t be told, it won’t have happened, and the world can go on spinning.
But, for Henry, she must hear what they've come to say. And so she stumbles toward the door, wishing she’d let him keep every penny, had leaned in beside him and gathered fistfuls.
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