There was a deep howl in the thick of the summer night. It came in through the open windows and made the curtains fly full sail. Jenny felt it reverberating in the swirl of visions dancing from one side of her brain to the other as she slept.
The howl emerged from the mouth of an old man sitting on a park bench. He was staring straight ahead. She looked at him and saw him sitting with a woman in the hospital. He was holding her hand as the last particles of corporal energy caused her to spasm and gasp. Tears rained out of his cloud body as his wife became a corpse, and voices sang happy birthday down the hall. Jenny could see his memories flow out of the lines etched into his face and his glistening eyes as she passed him. The funeral, the closet full of her clothes. The emptiness of the kitchen table without her. Her heart processed his pain, and it cracked in new places.
After she passed the bench, Jenny saw two children tethered to a kite. Giggles carried them in the wind as their kite danced, and its tail followed like a Greek chorus. It fluttered up higher and higher, then in a swoosh, it went west, and the children rushed to keep up with it. As soon as they did, it crashed onto the ground. They fought over whose turn it was to be the captain or first mate next. Then they each tried to be the first mate and let the other be captain. Finally, they became co-captains, and one took the line while the other took the kite, and they both ran and ran until the three of them were dancing in the air.
Around the bend, Jenny stopped to watch as Maddy told her mother she didn’t want the training wheels to come off her bike, she told her mother she didn’t see how she could ride any better without them. Her mother told her it was what big kids did, Maddy said she didn’t care. Then her mother said, you will feel free, and Maddy said okay. She stood poised over her bike as her mother took off the wheels and then walked them over to a tree to lay them to rest.
Maddy didn’t wait for her mother to return. She rode her bike. She was wobbly but quickly found her balance. Her long brown hair was traveling behind her like the kite in the wind. Maddy’s mother was running behind, ready to catch her if she fell. But Maddy would never fall. She took her feet off the pedals and howled with delight. Jenny could imagine Maddy seeking intoxicating feelings all her life.
For a short distance, there was nothing to see in the park but the flora. Expansive emerald green lawns dotted with dandelions. Patches of Black-Eyed Susan’s growing between rocks.
Up ahead, she saw there was a group of five kids playing by the pond that rippled with forgotten dreams of dancing dolls and marching toy soldiers, and pennies glistening below the water. They threw their laughter in, and it splashed. Then the children dreamed of being older while their watching parents and grandparents looked on longing to play in their world of spontaneous make-believe.
An unpaved path beckoned Jenny to turn and walk into a small patch of woods. The green canopy filtered the noon sun. Birds were singing. Squirrels were scurrying up and down trees. She heard a voice but wasn’t sure what it was saying. She couldn’t discern its origin. Then the earth seemed to move; she felt something pinching her arm. She turned around, but she was all alone. The ground stopped moving, but she felt herself shaking. She opened her eyes. The nurse was taking her blood pressure and wanted to insert a thermometer in her mouth. She let her slip it under her tongue. When she took it out, Jenny pressed the morphine pump to ease the pain of waking.
Closing her eyes again, Jenny drifted back to the woods where a pair of sparrows sat on a lower branch looking at her. There was a soft hum from the treetops where the wind danced and a beeping off in the distance. She felt she could spend the entire day walking in the park.
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