Monday, January 5, 2009

the fence

Shanna was on the fence, literally, all Humpty Dumpty-like, but not quite as eggy, she thought. And this town, it wasn't one reigned over by kings and no horses had ever tramped its sleepy, potholed Main Street and most of the men were lascivious lushes still too busy sleeping it off to try to coax her down, as if cared they about her safety or state of mind anyway.


She'd been up there on the fence for a full revolution of the small hand around the face of the tower clock at the center of town, since before the inhabitants woke up and started stretching to exorcize every last yawn.


Details about how she got there had broken down and the particulates had imbedded themselves in Shana's best guess.


It had been a long night.


Now, she understood, was not the time to invest in the taking up magnifying glasses, bloodhounds, and the rest of the paraphernalia of detective work. It was just really pleasant to teeter there, to take in the town, a town she knew well but not well enough to love.


She was thinking, "Is it time for me to leave?"


Clara Bubblegum, wife of Henry the cabbage farmer, on her way to the credit union with the week's deposit, was the first to pass by Shanna and notice her there. The sun was already pining for the horizon


"Dear, what are you doing there?"


"I'm sitting here."


"I see that very well, but why? Shouldn't you be at the car lot, filing invoices?"


"I should, but I can't"


"Why's that?"


"I'm sitting here."


"But why?"


"Because it'd be too hard to stand."


Realizing she wasn't getting anywhere, Clara Bubblegum hurried on her way, saying nothing. When out of eyesight and earshot, Clara Bubblegum pulled the cell phone from her purse and frantically dialed everyone she could think of, from town official to close friends to clergy to the volunteer fire department to brawny vagrants from two towns over.


She said the same to everyone: "Come quick, come quick!"


"My stock is in the strength of numbers. In our citizenry! What else do we in this feeble, failing town have?" she thought to herself, though not in those exact words, as she stepped through the door with her deposit.


She completed her transaction in a rush. Henry would have her hide if she bungled the figures, but at a time like this, she'd have to brave the consequences of relying on mental math—it was for the good of the community, after all.


Then Clara Bubblegum ran back to Shanna and was ashamed to see that her calls hadn't precipitated a crowd.


The only thing that had changed was that Shanna was sleeping and covered with dust. Blood was coursing from a fresh gash above her temple.


Clara went on tippy toes and shook Shanna by the knee.


Shanna woke up, groggy and sore.


"What happened? Where'd the blood come from?" Clara Bubblegum asked.


"My eye hit the concrete," Shanna answered. She pointed to a spot of ground squarely below where she sat, to the right of Clara Bubblegum


"Did anyone see? Did anyone help?"


"Nobody. I climbed back up here myself"


"Are you ok? What are you going to do?"


Shanna paused for a fraction of a second, and then with defiant cheer said, "I think I'll stay in this town till I die."

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