Word Count: 1,662
THE DAWN BREAKS so fast. I need more time.
Rena ran her hand across the wind chimes, smiling at the random thought. She browsed in the head shop that doubled as a trader of world market goods designed to make the average consumer care for two minutes about indigent Balinese women suffering from dysentery while they hand-painted wooden beaded curtains for room dividers. She thought again, I need more time and stopped cold. She checked her watch. She was forgetting something. Something pressing and important.
One o’clock. Plenty of time to look around, maybe sample some exotic chips and salsa on the other side of the store. There was a pungent smell like tortillas and seasoned rice overlaying the scent of wood and pillar candles and she figured there must be freebies to munch on. As soon as she made a decision on some chimes, she would wander over to grab a bite, and there was one more errand she needed to run. She’d meant to make a list before she’d left the house. There was always something Rena was forgetting.
She gave a sigh, inward and heavy. Everything looked so familiar she figured she’d been through this store twice, holding these same wooden wind chimes. The wind chimes she considered purchasing were missing a bell on the end, or what would probably be a clapper and one of the – arms, chimney things whatever– was broken into jagged point. The string holding it all together looked flimsy and there was a film of dust or grime covering it from top to bottom that brought an unconscious grimace to her face, but she was falling in love with it nonetheless. She would see if perhaps there was a discount for broken or damaged merchandise but no matter what it was going home with her.
A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter. Rena was all about the random thoughts this morning. She remembered that from her days of watching Sesame Street as a child. All about the random. Her mind was refusing to focus this afternoon and it was getting later by the moment.
Okay, she needed to concentrate on the task at hand. Grab the chimes and do the thing she knew she needed to do before she got distracted by the chimes and the smells. Somewhere in the store a child was crying, a muffled, mournful sound as if troubled by baby fears in sleep. The chimes in her hands tinkled as she walked through the store and the child quieted. If she came across the mother, she might convince her to buy a set, if there was a set that wasn’t broken, that was.
The dawn breaks so fast.
Now three-thirty. Her decision, or lack of, would end up being her downfall, she just knew it. That she could stand in one spot trying to make up mind about things like groceries or tires was a mystery to most people, but it was just the way her mind worked: all random thoughts and indecision.
Her stomach rumbled slightly and she really needed to drag herself to the front. The chimes in her hands were bamboo, or what looked like bamboo, could have been particleboard for all she knew. The tag on it said Made in Indonesia and the bamboo was smooth and weathered. Rena held it up and listened to the hollow noises the sticks made when they gently rattled together. The rocking chair nearby was nice too and when she sat down, it was comfortable, the rails conforming to her back like they were made for her.
The bowl on the counter was painted red and green and felt polished to within an inch of its life. It caught the light in weird refractions and looked bigger on the inside, expansive.
There was no real decision to make. Rena hadn’t let go of the chimes since she walked in, practically drawn to them. If she would just make her way to the cashier, she could leave.
Five o’clock, and the baby began to cry. Rena shook her hand and the chimes made hollow tones. The baby quieted. There was always a baby nearby. Babies in headshops and second-hand stores were as common as the smell of fried rice these days. The store was cramped and it gave the illusion of being much smaller than it actually was. The fabrics were colorful and stiff and more than a little worn. The knickknacks were chipped, most items seemed broken or missing pieces, and there was a smell underneath the tortillas and rice like bloated wood and wet carpet. End tables were patched with brown tape; a bed frame was missing a knob. The more she looked around, the more the little store was losing its charm. Even the air felt second hand and used.
And smelled. It smelled like meat and blood, so very faint beneath the pervasive scent of fried rice and strong coffee. Little icy fangs of fear began to gnaw at the edges of her shopping euphoria. She knew that smell and she needed to get out.
She stood before the automatic doors and waited for them to slide open. Nothing. She ran her hands in front of the electric eye, slightly pushing on the doors, but there was no give. They wouldn’t open. Someone turned out the lights and the store became the dark night just before the dawn, the last possible moments for evening tide to do its worst. “Hello,” she called out. The baby began to cry again. She heard a woman’s mother’s voice calming the child in Spanish, tinny, soothing tones from something electronic and close.
She followed the tinny sound and more hurried voices in Spanish to a point not far from the doors that refused to open. Her preferred language in high school was French, but these words she seemed to already know.
¿Usted tiene la cámara fotográfica?
Do you have the camera?
On the table with a tag that said Made in New Brunswick was an Intercom and she picked it up, pressing the buttons, all of them. “Hello – who’s there please? We’re trapped. Can you send someone to open the door? There’s a baby with me.” Now real alarm in the answering voices “Hurry,” she said again, her voice dropping to the whisper of desperate resignation. “Please, the dawn.” Thoughts in the back of her mind began to break the surface of her conscious like rays of light through a dirty window. It was too late. She’d missed her chance.
Five forty-seven by her watch. She wasn’t going to make it.
Above her a light went on, not the fluorescents or recessed lighting of boho stores and second hand treasure attics. It was dim and gray and bare, a simple overhead light missing the decorative cover. Rena felt despair. In the growing light from the window, she could see not the automatic doors of a store, but a bedroom door barely cracked to allow a hand to slip through to flip the bare, dirty switch. All around her were sticks of broken-down second hand furniture, an end table, a rocking chair, a crib. The baby inside looked up at her and cooed, his pudgy arms reaching up to her. His fingers – she was sure the baby was a he as sure as she knew she’d blown another night, another chance to escape – brushed the bottom of the windchimes above his crib and she shivered.
The dawn took on a more golden hue, solidifying, canceling out the impersonal incandescent above. She brushed her fingers through the chimes and they gave a hollow clacking. The baby cooed again. The forgetting was over because the dawn always brought the truth. These chimes weren’t made in Indonesia but Indiana where the man took her body, cut it into pieces with saws and lathes, and made things with the parts. Brown Wicker, not New Brunswick, was the name of the second hand shop that received the delivery of furniture with no return address: – the rocking chair from her ribs and femurs, the bowl from her skull, the painted lampshade of stretched skin. It must have been a deal for this family, as they’d purchased every single piece. An entire bedroom set made from her bones. 100% Authentic Rena. What they weren’t counting on was that the unmentioned extended warranty came with the former owner of those bones, lingering, fawning over the merchandise, all because she couldn’t remember to simply walk out. She needed to learn to trust her initial instinct, even now in this strange limbo of ethereal reality like she should have trusted the warning bells in her head when she’d met the man with the sharp knives who smelled like meat and blood and madness.
The bedroom door opened fully and mother and father stood in the opening, digital camera held by one, a drug store point and shoot by the other. Above the door a small round camera as if for a laptop or computer was mounted, pointed towards the crib. Watching. Probably for whatever rattled the chimes and disturbed the baby.
She knew the look of concerned parents when she saw it, as she knew the baby was a he, as she knew she was – what – bound, tethered to this furniture. There was a flash of light followed by two more, and they stood with wide eyes, seeing her stand over their baby but almost not, the dawn’s light getting stronger and her form growing dimmer and less corporeal. Staring at her. The dawn breaks so fast, she said with words that sounded like the breeze through chimes of bone connected by intricately braided strands of her hair. I need more time. She spoke to them in tones only the baby could hear and he giggled.
She could leave this place if she could remember, if only she’d stop lingering over the merchandise.
Erie Tales III: Saturday Evening Ghost, GLAHW, 2010
Erie Tales: Omnibus (Volume 1), GLAHW, 2013
© 2010 MontiLee Stormer
All Rights Reserved