Tag Archive: zapata

The Stormfire Girl by Angel Zapata

There used to be a fence here, around this domicile husk. The children, two by two, were ushered through the gates. Small, bare feet hovered above the earth like ghosts, touching air and nothing else. It was the large hands of strangers that swung them over the steps, set them down on the cool tile floor of the orphanage lobby.

The boy remembers that when it stormed the window shades would sway like paper arks, and all the caged animals on the curtains— two rabbits, two canaries, two cats, two dogs— would dissolve to whimpers and scratches, broken only by the sound of thunder or the creak of bed springs in the dark room.

The girl has no memory of fur or feathers. She would listen to the rain fall and pretend the lightning bolts were a carnival of cotton candy. Her numb fingers became paper cones for electric blue curls.

They were called by their former names back then and had promised to one day marry each other. Twenty years later, he’s Mr. Delgado. He addresses her as Mrs. Maya.

“I thought we would never leave this place,” he says.

“I never wanted to,” she responds. “Not without you.”

The crumbling building before them is a forest of charred wood, bones buried beneath bricks.

“Maybe you are still here.” He reaches for her.

In his arms, she doesn’t feel like anything at all.

The sidewalk is the ghost of pink poppies. Janitorial crews still scrub at broken blooms, but this concrete won’t come clean. I face the ground. At the curb, a shard sparkles near a crumpled paper cup. I wait until the sweepers tap tin pans of street dust into black trash bags. I bend, like a bough-bound cradle, and lift it up.
Two days ago, she was at her desk, analyzing spreadsheets.
*              *              *
“Ready for a break?” I peek in and ask.
To my astonishment, she grabs the stapler from the sill, winds up for the pitch, turns and takes gravity by storm. The office window bursts into pearl-drop petals. Cubicle padding does little to dampen the noise. There’s a rush of warm air. My hair shifts, static drawn from the shoulders.
She climbs the ledge, looks back. “He used to call me his angel,” she says. When she raises her arms, the white shawl she wears unfurls like wings.
I leap forward; fingers entwine a loose thread of cloth, then let go. My eyes absorb her flight.
That evening, candlelight illuminates the shadow of countless bouquets. The vigil is short. Crowds drip into cliques, cliques spill into solitary me. I stare at the sidewalk stain, search for some sign. There’s nothing written there in blood.
*              *              *
Dusk assaults my memories. The shard of glass in my hand refracts the dying light. I perch above her pink-buffed outline, form a fist and squeeze. Scarlet life-drops meld into the imperfect imprint of death.
I look up. The office complex touches the sky. Several stories up, pigeons braid a nest with a torn piece of hem. I stretch out a bloody hand and wait.
I know it’s only a matter of time before all feathers fall.