Jenny Lederer


A man is walking down your street pushing his sleeping offspring in a stroller. Coming toward him is a pretty girl with dark hair and headphones on both ears. The sidewalk is not wide enough to accommodate both. At the penultimate moment, in a paroxysm of helpfulness, the man swings the stroller off course toward the street. He misjudges the distance and one wheel goes over the lip of the curve.

The baby is bounced against the side carriage, awakened rudely. She stretches her petal pink face and begins to scream. She will grow up to trust no one. The girl with the Walkman, meanwhile, having jumped lightly up off the sidewalk onto the low wall running alongside, continues without looking back.

The man looks back, once, ruefully, before tending to the squalling baby. On the way home he passes a sidewalk cafe. There a young man and an older woman are having coffee together. They pause to watch the father and his child pass. The woman is smoking, leaning back in her chair with leonine grace and assurance. The man is hunched over his cup considering what she had just told him.

"I hope your new boyfriend gets cancer in his dick," he says finally, and her composure cracks just long enough to knock her spoon off the table.

The small sound of it hitting the pavement is lost in a swell of Peter Tosh from a car rounding the corner. Inside, four people, each monstrously obese, are each smoking a joint. The driver pauses at the stop sign then peels away leaving a patch of steaming rubber on the road.

A man from the neighborhood walks over to inspect it. He holds his hands behind his back and moves deliberately, with the gravity of a gentleman surveying his property. When the 409 bus drives by, he looks up and runs after it, screaming "Wait! Wait!" One passenger after another spots him and alerts the driver. When the bus stops, the man turns on his heel and resumes his survey of the gutter and its contents.

In the tree above the bus stop a hawk is ripping the insides out of a small brown bird. The air fills briefly with a shower of feathers, more than you'd expect, which covers the ground like a carpet. Soon afterwards you pass underneath without looking up and a feather is stirred from the sidewalk. It flies up and sticks to the back of your head. When you get home you find it there, maybe while you're sitting on the steps taking off your boots. You absentmindedly stick it in your pocket. Your bare feet make a soft friendly sound on the linoleum that I know even without being there.

No comments: