As always, three crows perch in the center of the telephone wire curving over the street. Jan can feel their beady eyes following her as she hurries to pick up Beth from her fourth day of nursery. They always watch.
Outside the nursery, a raccoon-eyed woman feeds alley cats. Her peroxide hair is piled on her head, complete with little ringlets falling on her caked, aging cheeks. Black mascara congeals on her lower eyelashes. Jan feels a spurt of pity. By the time she straps Beth into the stroller, the cat lady is gone, but the cats still prowl around the gate. One of them, a ginger, is missing an eye. Luckily, Beth doesn’t seem to notice. She is proudly holding a picture of the Early Bird, covered in multicolored stickers, and is busy pointing out, “This is blue, this is yellow, this is red.” As they walk down the street, she sings “Never. Never, never, never.” Jan wonders where she learned the word. “It’s a game,” Beth says, meeting Jan’s eye, “to say ‘never.’”
They stop for story-hour at the library, and Beth runs to play with the collection of old wooden toys. “Mama, help me,” she calls, pointing at a mechanical blackbird nailed to the wall. Jen picks her up so she can reach the wooden lever. In the protective glass covering, she can see the two of them reflected, Beth in front, her behind. She, exhausted, fading, her pale face swallowed by her large sun hat. Beth’s upturned face beatific with excitement as she looks up at the wings rising and falling, rising and falling.
Batnadiv HaKarmi is an American born writer and painter living in Jerusalem. A graduate of the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar Ilan University, her work has been published in Poet Lore, Ilanot Review, Poetry International, MomEgg Review and Partial Answers. She is the recipient of the Andrea Moria Prize for Poetry, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction.
She teaches Creative Writing in Emunah College, Jerusalem, and is on the faculty of the Brandeis Institute of Music and Art, Waltham MA.