By Mercedes Lawry
I listened to the sirens for a good fifteen minutes. It must be bad, I thought. Likely fatal and a fair amount of destruction. As children, we’d been taught to say a Hail Mary when we heard a siren. Somebody clearly needed a prayer one way or another and those words still jump into my mind though I no longer believe in the church, or God or the Blessed Mother. I did like her blue robes.
It was getting dark on a glum January Friday when there had been little light to begin with. Even though the days were growing longer, the endless gray skies of winter kept every day feeling like the repeat of a sad mistake. We should all be asleep for a couple of months and return when there was at least an occasional glimmer of hope.
Kay wanted me to come over and eat supper – some new soup recipe she’d tried–but I had no energy to put on better clothes and go out in that cold rain. I had no doubt the soup was good. Kay was a decent cook and I was not. I’d settle for some melted cheese on a tortilla. Lazy always trumped an interest in food. Just give me a pill, I’d say, like the astronauts, not really knowing if they took pills or ate from those toothpaste-like tubes. A lot of waste in those tubes, I thought, they’d have to slice them open and lick out the rest and be careful not to cut their tongues because infections could be dangerous in space. I read that somewhere or saw it on 60 Minutes.
After awhile I went on the Twitter to see if I could find out what those sirens were all about. You can sign up with our police and they’ll tweet you about the crimes in your neighborhood. Most people would be flabbergasted at what goes on. Most people don’t think much happens in this part of town. They think all the action is in the South End. They would be wrong. We’ve got plenty of burglaries and car thefts and a hell of a lot of suspicious persons lurking around. We even had Bunco which I had to look up though it sounded familiar from 50’s detective shows. Then I learned it’s a game and next thing you know I see it on the shelf at the Rite Aid. I didn’t buy it though. Too expensive and Kay’s not big on games.
I didn’t see anything though you never know how long an incident will take to show up on the Twitter. I wonder if it’s one cop’s job to post things, like a Twitter-Master? Or does a cop on the scene have to do it, and do they have quotas like traffic tickets? Maybe they have to stick to a limit on crimes so they don’t cause mass panic though I don’t know anyone else signed up on the police twitter. I keep telling people about it but they just twitch and say they’d rather not know.
Kay isn’t signed up but I tell her about some of the more interesting tweets. I’m not going to get too fussed unless it’s happening on my street, which it has on occasion. Including with gunshots that I slept through, thank you, Ambien. I had to hear about it from a young neighbor who was so beside herself she told her husband they had to move. I said, honey, guns are everywhere. Come to think of it, they might have a gun. They seem conservative and the gun-rights types. But of course protecting your overpriced house isn’t at all the same as a couple of loaded young guys arguing after the bars close.
It doesn’t happen so much now but I used to be astounded when I met grown people who told me they never knew anyone who died – outside of a grandparent or elderly relative. How could that be, I wondered. I’ve known dead people since I was a child. Not only did we sing the funeral mass in Latin every Wednesday, but we went to funeral homes, too, and marched right up to the coffin and knelt down and said a prayer and there was no refusing to look at the body.
The bigger concern was inappropriate giggling which plagued us at many reverent moments. Sometimes it was just nervousness, but back then it was considered bad behavior by kids with no respect which never went down well with the nuns. They didn’t hesitate to whap you on the side of the head, which they’re now famous for and some even think of it as a fond memory.
What about murdered people? How many people know murder victims? I know a couple – nobody really close. I’ll bet it’s less than six degrees on knowing a murder victim.
I keep my door locked now when I’m home. I don’t know why anyone would just fling open your door to a knock – day or night. I don’t think it’s so smart the other way around either – knocking on doors to get votes, or signatures to save some sea creature we’re hounding to extinction or selling god knows what. That world is over and done. Death of a salesman. Curtain closed.
Mercedes Lawry has previously published short fiction in several journals including Gravel, Dying Goose, and Newer York and has work forthcoming in Molotov Cocktail, and Cleaver. For many years, she’s been publishing poetry in journals such as Poetry, Nimrod, Superstition, The Saint Ann’s Review and others and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice. Additionally, she’s published stories and poems for children. She lives in Seattle.