Sandy

Kemono Cafe 001

Sandy watched the sunset from the roof of 7th Avenue Center. She was lucky to find a spot where it was visible, sitting on top of an old air conditioning unit and shading her eyes so she could look into the distance. For the third time that week, Sandy was filled with awe of the horizon’s splendor.

This roof was one of Sandy’s favorite hiding spots. It was usually empty except for the hopping crows that searched through the piles of forgotten cardboard boxes for spiders. Sandy would spend hours here reading her favorite books in silence while the confusion of everyone else’s busy lives remained blissfully distant. The warm orange light caught her attention just as she was putting her books back into her bag and she had to take a moment to take in the beauty of something natural in this dirty and oppressive city.

Sandy would be missed at work if she was gone too long. But the sunset was so beautiful that it gave her pause and she forgot the time. She was so quiet and still that her long tawny hair was lifting in the wind like a lonely flag in celebration of the day’s ending. Sandy also felt a sense of growing fear at the world moving on without her. When this was over, she’d have to return to the life she didn’t want. Sandy felt trapped here in her small piece of downtown and as she looked at the sun slowly vanish past a barrier of old chain link.

Hrrroooooooooooon…

The deep tone of a train whistle called out through the air just as the world was descending into shadow. Sandy had to hop up from her seat and look over the side to see it. A bright stripe of color cut across the dusty gray landscape far below.

It was a stunning line of polished strawberry red roofs that captured her attention immediately. She guessed it was an older steam engine, with white puffs of smoke hissing out from the sides. The sound she’d heard was from the engine’s brilliant brass whistle at the front. The train was so clean that she could faintly make out the glint of brass decorations even at this distance. She wondered what it was doing there, parking alongside the much more modern light rail cars. She was captivated by how out of place it looked… Maybe the circus was in town.

As Sandy felt the temptation to visit, she felt a shock of realization go down her back as the light around her suddenly faded to black. She was late. She bolted toward the rooftop door, accidentally kicking a box of discarded styrofoam before slamming the heavy door behind her. A tiny, red piece of paper flit through the air in the wake of the door slamming, unseen.

There you are… I’m here! Looks like a busy day out there. Can’t wait to get right to it! No. Come here for a moment. We’ve talked about you vanishing for that long. I just lost track of the time! I’m very sorry. Someone else had to stay late to cover for you. Then I’ll apologize to them, too! Can I get back to it? Were you on the roof again? I, ah… Well, yes. The others take their breaks in the cafe, then they- But I can go wherever I want for my break! Yes… But you seem to have trouble keeping track of time up there. I like to read but the cafe’s too noisy. Something tells me you don’t want to be here. Sir, I can’t lose this job. I feel we’ve already been down this road, Sandy. I’m sorry. Either you give up reading on the roof or this job.
What kind of choice is that?! I need a team-player, Sandy. Take the rest of the day off and let me know tomorrow what you decide. Neither of us can go on like this. Yes, sir…