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no invitation

We are at a 3 year old's birthday party in the back room of a cafe. Music is pumping from a tiny speaker. Balloon animals are popping, and waving in the air. A man in a yellow dinosaur costume dances wildly. Parents snap pictures with satisfied smiles on their faces.

A little girl approaches gingerly and stands in the doorway, straying from her parents somewhere inside the restaurant. She cannot be more than three. It must be hard to ignore all of the noise coming from this room packed with celebration. There is a perfect little pony tail at the back of her head. She hesitates, as one foot poises in the air and then rests back down. How to understand that she was not invited. How to understand the laughter, the loose jumping bodies, the presents piled high on the window. None of this connects to her. There is a little plate of food waiting for her back there, in the quiet restaurant. Maybe a warm bowl of soup, thick with noodles. I watch her for some time.

That night, her empty e…

a scream, a howl


There is a scream, as we sidestep the giant puddles in the parking lot. My neck cranes. There is no car speeding off, no body on the ground. The screams come again, now more than one person and I understand it is some teenagers playing in the woods. E's face relaxes. She was worried, the same as me. A delivery truck guns its engine, passing us creating a wave of frothy brown water. It is another monday here, a trip to the hardware store to buy cleaning supplies, an empty chore.

Trees are bending in the wind. I pull a hood tight around my ears.

A dog is barking, howling, whimpering. We see it, turning in circles, yanking against its collar.

Half of the neighborhood is up in arms while the rest of us make our way in silence.

Behind the grocery store that was simply gone one day, its doors a great loose mouth of brick and dust, I find a penny on the ground. Not a ruble, not a kopek but a penny. I show it to E.
"It's probably one of yours." She says, out of the side of her mouth.
I think of the people that pick through the garbage cans, maybe finding one of my pennies and tossing it, useless into the night.









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