Maddie sits with her grandparents in their parlor. They smile sweetly at her and she twists her red hair.
This room isn’t big enough for the three of us she thinks.
The bright afternoon is suffocating.
Is your mother doing well then Grandma Lan asks.
Yes well Maddie answers.
Good. Good. All so good.
Maddie wonders what is in the big wood chest under the window as she sips her ice tea. Granddad stares at her fingers as they twirl her hair.
Nervous about something he asks.
Your chi is out of whack. You need to center yourself.
Granddad has a long beard and smokes pot. She thinks he may be propositioning her some and stops twisting her hair.
What is in the chest Grandma Lan she asks.
Oh this and that. Mementos I have collected and saved over the years. There are some things that are for you after I pass away.
Maddie finds this disturbing but thanks her grandmother anyway.
I’ve got to go. For a walk she says as she stands and walks over to the door to put on the boots she just removed fifteen minutes ago. I need some fresh air and want to look around the neighborhood.
Would you like to help me prepare dinner when you come back Grandma Lan asks we are having BURR – REE – TOES.
Maddie takes note of a picture on the wall by the door of her father as a boy in a soccer uniform and leaves without answering. The air is hot and white. A moderately intoxicated man down the road wears sunglasses while driving his lawnmower.
The outside smells of corn and sulfur. Each house is distinct from the last that she passes, and all in various stages of care. She is stifled by all of the green that she sees.
There is a sense of familiarity that permeates the town. It feels to her as if she is living through a reoccurring dream. One that she always forgets the moment she wakes up.
Entering the commercial district Maddie dives into the entry way of a boarded up post office. She lights a cigarette. There are the voices of several teenagers nearby. Wanting to avoid them she decides to change the direction she was going to go when she leaves.
She ends up in a park located nearly in the center of town. At the bathrooms she buys a bottle of water from a vending machine.
There is a memorial in the middle of the park. A stone dome with ionic columns and a hole in its roof. Some people say the hole was caused by a meteor that crashed through the roof. Others speculate it was a piece of a doomed aircraft. The newspaper stated it was an unknown object that fell from the sky. Whatever it was it was removed long ago. The hole was left as a curiosity and town attraction though. Now none pay it any attention.
Maddie spots the teenagers that she heard back at the shutdown post office. She can tell them by the sound of their voices. There are three boys and two girls. They notice her and she knows it and straightens her skirt. She regrets her choice of shirts. A tight bright blue t-shirt.
Two weeks Maddie thinks two weeks and then…
And she doesn’t know. She does not know if it even matters.
You have another one of those Granddad asks appearing behind her. Not even aware she lit another cigarette Maddie offers him one by holding the box out. Thought you might want the company. Probably wrong though.
No. You’re not wrong.
Maddie lights his smoke and they are quiet for a while. The teenagers are at one of the park picnic tables. A boy jumps off of it. He splays his legs in a mock stage jump. He is wearing a green shirt with a Chinese Dragon which Maddie finds ridiculous.
It’s been a long time since you have been here. You were ten I think.
Right. Is it a lot different Granddad looks into her eyes. She looks away. At her fingernails.
No. Not different at all.
Suppose not. Things don’t change here much.
Gazing back up to the hole she studies its jagged sharp edges. There is a reddish hue to them. It contrasts the pale white stone of the building.
Know what caused that Granddad asks.
No. The devil.
A devil fell from the sky she asks incredulous.
No. THE devil fell from the sky.
She laughs Why would the devil come here.
Who knows. Some believe he’s here still. Granddad puts out his cigarette on the trash can lid and smiles at her. Let’s go get some of Grandma’s burritos.
Maddie smiles back.