“Why were they yelling at us?” Beddy said, looking back through the frosted glass door. The man was just outside it, a pointillist shape from the patterned etchings in the glass. When he drew closer to it, he looked like he got larger, not nearer. She could feel his glare.
“Because they don’t have anything better to do. They’re just waiting for eternity to start.”
“What was on that lady’s sign?”
They walked through the waiting room that must have once been a living room and up to the receptionist who sat behind a two-inch wall of bulletproof glass, but that looked to Beddy like an ice castle.
“Is Death out there?” the receptionist asked as Ma signed in.
“Is what?” Ma said.
“There’s a regular who comes in a reaper costume.”
Ma turned around as if she could see him from inside, then back. “Nope, just other nuts and bolts.”
“That’s too bad.” The receptionist checked her watch. “He usually brings coffee.”
She passed a clipboard through the castle door at the bottom.
“Why are we here anyways?” Beddy said.
They found the only spot left in the waiting room that had two chairs next to each other and sat. Their chairs faced the street, but the windows were shielded by blinds. The chanting continued.
“You know how I told you about the storks.”
Beddy nodded fervently. Many days she searched the skies for them to see if they were bringing her a brother.
“Well, the people here give me something to bring home that scares them away.”
“Does it always work?”
“Not always, but close enough.”
“So I’m not gonna have a brother? Just Ona?”
She wanted one so badly. Ona could be a real turd, and Beddy was convinced all sisters were the same. Brothers had to be the way to go.
“That’s all I want. You and Ona. Any more would be too much. To love.”
This made sense to Beddy.
“Is it…is it like a scarecrow? Like at Uncle Josh’s farm?”
“Yes. They won’t want to land at our house if it’s there. Now zip it for a second, I have to fill this out.”
Beddy zipped it. She grabbed a children’s magazine from the rack and flipped through. Most of the puzzles had already been solved by eager hands, but there were a few mazes. She was in the midst of helping the Coke get to the thirsty athlete when Ma’s name was called.
“Wait here,” Ma said.
Beddy watched as Ma went over to a door off the ice wall and a staff member buzzed her through. She pulled a lollipop from inside her jacket, removed its wrapping, and sucked on it absently. Puzzles were nice, but she liked being in waiting rooms because they always had the magazines with the pretty ladies in them. She wanted to be one of them someday and seeing their pictures made her happy, so much that it hurt a little.
She was reading one of these when Ma returned, carrying a small white paper bag.
“Can I see it?”
They stepped outside. Beddy braced herself by wrapping her scarf high on her face so that she had only a narrow band of vision. The picketers had been reduced to three, including Evil Eyes and Wild Hair, and were arguing with a police officer whose affability was thinning.
“I know, I know,” he said to Evil Eyes in particular. “But the clinic says you’re sticking your pickets into their lawn. Now that’s grass they pay to water and mow, which makes your destruction of property trump your right to assembly.”
Ma placed Beddy to the left of her and they escaped down the walkway. As they passed the group, she read over the edge of the scarf the third picketer’s sign.
“Before I made you, I knew you. – God.”
They reached the curb, and Beddy let out her breath. She hadn’t even realized she’d been holding it. She unwrapped the scarf as they walked behind the double-parked cop car and stopped at the island. Ma pressed the Walk button.
Beddy eyed the bag as they waited to cross. What could be in there? It wasn’t very large if it fit in that tiny bag. How could the storks see it from above? Miss Clough taught her that eagles and hawks have amazing vision in order to spot prey, but what about storks?
She would have to look around the house soon to see what might be the scarestork. And when she found it, destroy it.
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