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Today's Story by Darren Callahan

My mother thinks you are vultures, and vultures are a curse.

City of Human Remains – Chapter 36


Nasor Kipusa.  Should I spell it for you?  N-A-S-O-R.  K-I-P-U-S-A.  Yes.  It’s okay to take my image.  I have seen you Media people outside my apartment, waiting for me sometimes.  My mother drives you away with a broom when I’m not looking.  She thinks you are vultures, and vultures are a curse.

We have no power, my mother and me.  We are only little people.  She works for a real estate broker and I sort mail at the post office.  Aluna just turned 6.  Yes, when I was 13 I had my baby.  The father is in military service.  Yes, we might be married, except he’s overseas, so I don’t believe it will be soon.  I have not talked to him in two years.  No, neither has my daughter.  He forgot her birthday this year.  No, he does not know she’s missing.  I don’t want to worry him.  He can do nothing about it.

She’s my little olive.

Her name means ‘Come here,’ but I found out what it means after she was named but before she became lost.  It was my great-grandmother’s name: Aluna Amali Kipusa.

And I call her my little olive.

We keep her hair short.  Do you want to look at an image?

Yes, she is pretty.  Thank you.  And thank you for saying ‘is’ and not ‘was.’  Momma told me you already had her dead and buried.     At least the police, they—

Good, I’m glad to hear it.

What an odd question.  The last thing I remember?  It is actually not the last we did.  So it’s funny you should ask.  The last thing I remember Aluna doing was when I gave her a bath the night before.  She had put her face under the water and the bubbles.  I could only see the mask of her nose, eyes, mouth – not even her ears or her dark hair, and certainly not her body.  Just her face, surrounded by bubbles.  And I remember thinking…that it is the most beautiful face I have ever seen.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry.


I didn’t mean to cry.

I know.  Sorry.

Thank you.

No, don’t take a picture of this (laughing.)

My eyes must look like an owl’s.

I have to apply ice to them at night to make the swelling go down.



The last time we were together?

I took her to the bus stop.  So she could ride into school.  I work very early and I cannot be late.  She’s taken the bus for a year now.  She knows everyone at the stop.  The police have questioned all of them.  They turned, and Aluna was gone.  It had rained that morning, not talking, so they lost track.  They were nervous for her when they couldn’t find her, but didn’t look more than a few minutes.  Just around the corner.  In the doorways of the closed shops.  The bus arrived.  They had to go on their own way, you know, not look after some child that is not theirs.

And then the school called to say she hadn’t arrived.

And then I went searching, with Momma, and could not find her.

And then the police came by.

And the broadcasts started.

And they added her name to a list and gave me this badge.

It’s a sad little marker, isn’t it?  Like a scar.  I am glad it’s not red.  Wise to make them gold.

I spend my days making calls to the Family Information Line.  I pray a lot.  I go to the bus stop, too.  That’s usually very hard.  I look at pictures of her and try to remember what she looked like when she was 2, or 3, or 4.  Children change so much.  If she’s gone much longer, I’m afraid I won’t recognize her.  And that makes me saddest of all.  You know?  That I’m missing something.  I hate to be gone for even a day to sort the mail.  She learns a new word and she’s like a stranger.

Now it’s been days and days.

There’s no one to tuck in bed at night.  No books I can read.  There’s no one in her room, but all her toys are there, and her drawings, and her bed, just waiting for her little arms and legs.

Thank God for Momma.  She tucks me in.

Aluna’s picture is just everywhere!  She’s smiling at me from all 4 corners.  And it breaks my heart…

I don’t want my little girl in pieces.

I want her whole.

I want her back.  Right now.

I don’t care if they find who did this.

I just miss her and I want her back.

I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.

No, I’m fine.

I should get inside.

Yes, I know they caught someone.  And this could be it.  I feel like I’m walking to my own beheading.

What have they found?  What was in that house that we don’t know about?  Will I leave here and want to kill myself?

Will you be here waiting?

Good.  I will come and tell you what they say.

Momma didn’t have the strength to come so I’m alone.

She’s home, hugging her pillow.

No, I’m fine.

Thank you for listening.

I won’t tell anyone I spoke to you.

I know they hate you and love you, too.


Nasor breaks from the Media and walks to the elevators, just as everyone had done.  Only she’s alone, so she is not sure which button to press.  She chooses one.  Soon, the car rattles into place and she climbs into it.  It descends and she loses sight of them at the break of the floor.

In two minutes, she spills onto the lobby floor of the convention center and wanders the wide-open space with hundreds of other empty shells.

Among the mothers, she feels she is a drop of water in a vast ocean at night.

Don’t let me roll under, she thinks, and jostles the mother next to her in the crowd.