Chicago has a newspaper that’s sold by homeless people. The idea is that, by selling StreetWise, people down on their luck can get back on their feet. My first fiction sale was to this fine publication. It was a very short story called “Ice” and it was published in 1995. It’s not mystery or horror or crime, and I cringe a little when I read it now, but, as I said, it was the first.
The dead bird slept on the ice machine outside of the corner 7-Eleven while Loretta stood in the doorway and laughed silently to herself. She could see the things that the people that walked past missed.
The bird was dead, but once it flew. Things change.
Loretta had once had a place to sleep, under a roof, within walls. But things change.
The bird had been only a sparrow, very small, but in a city without eagles or falcons it hadn’t mattered. Birds know no jealousy.
Loretta also knew no jealousy.
Other people had things. That’s all they were, just things. She had things, too, so why be jealous? She carried her things with her; her few items of clothing, her worn blanket, her college degree (A B.A. in business, a major she’d decided on when she couldn’t decide on a major). These things were her things.
The sparrow had been a peaceful bird, never doing any harm, but its life still ran away. Loretta also had never done any harm, only made a few mistakes, and her life had run away.
But Loretta’s could come back.
The dead bird slept on the ice machine. Ice is cold, but sometimes there’s nowhere left to lie.
And things can change.Originally published in StreetWise, Volume 4, Number 10.