by Patricia Hanahoe-Dosch
Someone Monica thought was a friend told her on Facebook that something she'd said was offensive because...she didn’t care why. That mansplaining bitch thinks she knows more than I do about my own job, she thought. Just because she had a similar job and was older. Monica lost her temper and said some cruel things. And yeah, you can use the word about a woman when you’re acting like a man, she said. The woman un-friended her. I didn't like her anyway. She inhaled slowly, trying to calm down.
I have a great boyfriend and she doesn't. Other friends on Facebook sided with her. Who did that woman think she was? Monica switched to CNN. The news site predicted war was inevitable because... She stopped reading. Time to disconnect, she thought. She left the desktop computer in the spare room she'd turned into her office and looked out the window. A hummingbird floated for a second by a butterfly bush. She could smell the loaf of rye bread she'd put into the oven, earlier. Outside, there was still sunlight and a cool, evening breeze. On her deck, moss feathered the edges of the wood along the railing. Moss seemed to grow all over things around here. She disliked how slimy and slippery it was though it looked pretty. She stepped out onto the deck, leaned against the side rail. Somewhere in the neighborhood, someone was mowing a lawn. She watched the petals of a crepe myrtle in her back yard drift down from the branches. The small tree, still covered in pink flowers, seemed to bow a little. Everything will be okay, she thought. Being outside always made things better. She thought about Ted. He was gorgeous - really, kind of out of her league gorgeous - but he didn't talk much. They didn't have much in common, but the sex was good. So what if they rarely did anything else together? Some kind of small bird with a yellow beak started chirping as it flew by. She laughed at the sound.
What happens in the world, elsewhere, stays elsewhere, she thought, for now, anyway. She was tired of reading about the president's stupid tweet and all the other political crap. It was depressing and boring, but what most people talked about online. She would ignore it all for the rest of the evening. It was important to disconnect sometimes and remember the important things. Her phone trilled a minion laugh at her. She ignored what was probably some spam email telling her about the latest effort to protest something. She saved that stuff for Facebook and Twitter. She wanted to smell the grass, watch the branches of the trees sway in the breeze, listen to the birds and insects. It was lovely out here in her yard - an escape from the ugliness that seemed to suck her in whenever she got online. She took a photo of the backyard with her cellphone camera. She’d post it later – the light and shadows around the trees were particularly pretty, she thought.
Across from her yard, in the cul de sac behind her street, she saw a neighbor standing on his roof. Their yards connected though his house faced the cul de sac. He was fixing some tiles on the roof or something. Even from so far away, she could see moss growing on some of the tiles along the side of the house. She called, "Hi! Be careful up there!" He looked up. She waved. He waved back. Then he turned back to looking at something on the roof, but in turning, his weight shifted just enough so he lost his balance. He fell backwards, slipped on a mossy tile, slid briefly down the bottom part of the roof, then dropped over the edge.
She stood paralyzed. She heard a scream. She grabbed her phone to call 911, then realized she didn't know the exact address of the man's house. She ran inside, out her front door, down the street, turned into the cul de sac, looked at the number on his mailbox, then called. She gave the dispatcher the address and explained what happened. She didn't know how badly he was hurt. She couldn't see him, but she knew he had to be there. She tried to see past the fence but could see only wood flaking with old, brown paint. She opened the gate. "Hello?" she called. "Are you okay?" She heard nothing. She went around to the side of the house. He lay there like a large mannequin thrown out of an upper story display window. His legs and arms were bent strangely. He didn't move or make a sound. She described him to the dispatcher as though describing a photo. She refused to give her name. She hung up and ran back out the gate to wait for the ambulance. That's what I'm doing, she thought. I'm waiting for the ambulance. Someone has to tell them where to go. She heard a siren in the distance. She took a slow, deep breath. It will be okay. He will be okay. Everything will be okay. She remembered she left the bread in her oven. It was probably burned. It could burn down the whole house, she thought. She ran toward her house, but stopped and looked back at the corner of the street. The gate was still wide open. There was no sound or motion from the house. She felt sick. The sirens were getting closer. She turned back and ran home.
Her boyfriend didn't answer his phone. He was probably working late, she decided. She wrote about it on Facebook. Everyone told her it wasn't her fault. What could she have done? Someone said he was stupid for being on his roof in the first place. He should have hired someone to do that. Someone else asked, but what if he couldn't afford it? Why spend money on something you can do yourself? For once, the comments all seemed vapid and insincere - even stupid. He had fallen because he waved at her, lost his balance, and slid along the tiles. She had left him lying there, dead, though she had called 911. She hadn't even watched over him till the police got there, or knocked on the door to see if his wife was home.
She looked at her phone. Ted had called. She didn't call him back.
Monica closed out of Facebook. She was glad she hadn't gotten to know her neighbor well. She felt somewhat guilty about that, too. She wanted to sit on her deck and enjoy the sunset and bird sounds. She couldn't do it though. She couldn't open the door and walk through it. Night was almost here. She wasn't sure she could face it on the dark deck.
A Note About the Author :Pat Hanahoe-Dosch has an MFA from the University of Arizona and is a Professor of English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Her story, “Sighting Bia,” was a finalist for A Room of Her Own Foundation's 2012 Orlando Prize for Flash Fiction. Her short stories have been published in The Peacock Journal and In Posse Review. Her second book of poems, The Wrack Line, was recently published by FutureCycle Press.