Night Walking (part 2)

“Who’s that little girl out there?” Phil pointed to the little girl.

Officer Tambule turned to look. “Oh, she’s the kid that called 9-1-1.”

Tammy sniffled and rubbed her teary and tired eyes on the sleeve of her jacket as she watched the men stow the old lady’s body away in the ambulance, like something going into a breadbox. She’d been watching the old lady for months when she couldn’t sleep, which was often. The window to the bedroom she shared with her little sisters opened to the arterial, but it wasn’t traffic noise that mostly kept her awake—she was used to that. It was the night noises coming from her mommy’s room. There had been a lot of night noises since the new boyfriend had moved in. She was old enough to know that this boyfriend was different, but doubted he would stay. They never did.

The first time Tammy had watched Arlene Mertz walking at night, she thought she was seeing a ghost. The old lady appeared to be floating, long skirt swaying and swirling along the ground, hiding any sign of feet. Tammy separated the plastic venetian blinds with dirty fingers just enough to get a better look. The old lady had short grey hair, messy, like before you comb it in the morning. She was stooped and her hands waved through the air at her sides as if she was wading in water.

This night, a different sound had woken Tammy. A thud, and then the peal of tires against pavement. She looked out the window to find the old lady laying on the road. She got out of bed, called 9-1-1 like her mom had taught her to do, and then slipped out of the apartment, quiet as a whisper into the night. If mom caught her, there’d be trouble, but she couldn’t leave the old lady alone.

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