by Linda Scotto
I watched Bill Leede shape his mouth like a fish and blow smoke circles into the air. I put my finger through one and pretended to spin it around. We were on a 10 minute break from the glass blowing factory, standing outside where we could catch some afternoon sunlight. The factory wasn’t an easy place to get by in. It was dimly lit, noisy and smelled strongly of chemicals mixed with something like rotted Ginkgoes.
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” he asked, leaning against the chain-link fence. Bill only made eye contact once in a while and ordinarily, something like that would bother me. My mother used to say never trust anyone who talks anywhere but your face but I trusted Bill. Every day, after work, his wife Sabrina and two sloppy kids would come pick him up in his beat up Nova. She was always leaning out of the window, screaming obscenities at him while the kids, with dirty sticky faces. laughed uproariously in the back seat.
“Well?” he asked, clearing his throat.
I had to hand it to Bill, it was a good god damn question. I knew back inside, Carole and Helen were using their break time to sit in that gross kitchenette, eat Entenmenn’s cakes and talk more about Breaking Bad or worse, the Home Shopping Network.
I liked Bill because he didn’t bullshit. He cut right to the chase.
I took my time thinking and leaned back into the chain link.
“Well?” he asked, again.
He wasn’t the type of guy to rush things but maybe he was thinking we only get ten goddamn minutes. There’s only so much a person could do in ten minutes: get some much needed nicotine into your blood, feel the heat of the sun on your face, find out the horrible amoralities of your co-worker.
“I guess it would have to be when I got a bird: a beautiful parakeet. He was green and blue and the most gorgeous thing I’d even seen.”
I looked over at Bill and noticed he was squinting.
He had told me he was getting these awful headaches and thought the factory wasn’t ventilated property. He said he spoke to our manager, an overweight nefarious kind of a guy but he just blamed it on Bill’s glass blowing technique.
“I took the bird home in a small cardboard box and set up the cage they gave me. But instead of just opening up the box inside the cage and letting him come out on his own time, I let him free in my apartment.“
“What happened? He escaped outside?”
“No. He flew to the window and grabbed onto the venetian blinds.”
“I didn’t let him stay there long. I was in a rush. I wanted him trained right away, so I chased him and he flew to the window in the kitchen. Only he missed his mark, crashed into the wall and fluttered down.”
I wasn’t looking at Bill anymore.
“Then he flew up and made it back to the window in the living room. He grabbed onto the string that opens and shuts the blinds and spun around. He was huffing and puffing, all out of breath. But I was determined. He was so goddamn beautiful.
“So what did you do?”
“I chased him back to the kitchen and so on and he just went crashing into walls.”
It was then I thought of stopping the story. The back of my throat was tight and dry but the words tumbled out of my mouth before I could catch them.
“A few times I really thought I had him. He finally landed on my kitchen counter. I ran to him and held out my finger thinking he might climb on, but he was dead.”
Bill didn’t say anything. He just stood there smoking that cigarette and looking straight up at the squat gray building in front of us. I was waiting to hear something like, “that’s pretty bad” or “is that all you got?:
Bill took another long drag.
“That must have been really long ago.”
“It wasn’t so long ago,” I said, staring out into the parking lot.
He tossed his cigarette to the floor.
I looked over. He gave me a tiny nod, with so little movement it might not have been happening at all. We stood there in silence, each of us grasping a link of the fence. A group of geese traveled noisily above us. I followed their V formation until they were tiny black dots fading into nothing.
I wanted Bill to talk. I could feel myself becoming angry. I thought of saying something because while maybe it wasn’t such a big deal, our little conversation left me a tiny bit more broken then I’d been five minutes before. But then I pictured his wife somewhere right now, the gears spinning in her head, conjuring thoughts of atrocities Bill said or done recently and how she would scream about them right in this very spot in a matter of hours.
The sound of the bell ending our break startled me.
Bill looked down, noticing the ash was still glowing amber and stomped it too hard. Then we let go of the fence and slowly made our way back inside.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing