Danger can swoop out of the blue and snatch your job and bleed your bank account dry and even take your house and turn it over to a stranger.

Today's Story



By Gwen Florio

The pigeon hit the sidewalk in an explosion of feathers and blood. Fast behind it, a falcon stooped, snatched, flew away. The Rittenhouse Square regulars — the bums hogging the  benches, the bespoke-suited lawyers and the pedigreed matrons who still pulled white gloves over blue-veined hands before venturing out to lunch — turned and, in an unprecedented moment of acknowledging one another’s existence, said to one another, “Did you see that?”

The sun shone and people smiled and a few soft grey feathers seesawed through the air like oversized dust motes. I headed home full of hope.

I lived some blocks south of the square, in a neighborhood close enough to the projects to be affordable but still gentrifying like mad before the recession hit. I had fed myself the same giddy lines that everyone around me was swallowing and cashed in my retirement savings for a down payment on what they call in Philadelphia a trinity, historic as hell, which was supposed to justify the claustrophobia of three low-ceilinged rooms stacked like ring boxes one atop the other. Despite the way things turned out, my spirits lifted whenever I rounded the corner onto the street and saw my darling standing peaked and pretty among the looming, featureless rowhouses.

The walk left me thirsty. I slipped through the alley into the rear courtyard and freed the hose from its cradle. The water from the nozzle was clear and cold and it sparkled as it arced toward my mouth. The windows facing the alley stared blankly. Everyone was at work, of course. It takes money to keep up houses like these.

I cupped my hands and splashed water onto my face, rubbing hard at the crevices in my neck, the tender hollows behind my ears. Then I gave the plants, pink geraniums in blue pots, not to my taste but nonetheless in need of care, a good soaking. A fine wet scent arose from the earth. I replaced the hose and hurried back through the alley and stepped into the street just as a woman crossed toward me. She clickety-clicked past on important heels without looking my way and put a key into the lock. The door creaked open — I’d always meant to oil the hinges, but had never gotten around to it — and closed emphatically behind her and I heard the rattle and click of the tumblers as she locked it against the dangers outside.

I wanted to run to the door and pound on it and tell her that she might as well leave it open, that danger can swoop out of the blue and snatch your job and bleed your bank account dry and even take your house and turn it over to a stranger and leave you standing on the street without so much as the acknowledgment of passers-by — “Did you see that?” — to verify that you’d ever existed at all.


Gwen Florio is a journalist who lives in Montana. Her short fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and included in storySouth’s Million Writers Award notable stories of 2010, and has been published in Whitefish Review, Delmarva Review, Philadelphia Stories, Cha: An Asian Literary Review, and Sotto Voce.


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