Short Story: Invasive Species

This is my original fiction. You have my permission to link to it. If you want to use any part or all of it, give me credit.

Speed Limit: 25 mph

Your Speed:  32

Your Speed: 34

Your Speed: 35

The car whooshes past me. The driver’s on her cell phone, multitasking, of course. It reminds me of Emelie, so frantic, so focused, so impatient with olds like me. We’re just in their way.

The sign isn’t talking to me of course. I’m on the sidewalk, and I don’t think my pace, two miles an hour at best, would even register on it. These days, with the arthritis, it’s probably more like one-point-five miles. They move the sign around, the city council does, and this older neighborhood between my house and the strip mall is getting its turn for a whole month.

I walk through this neighborhood five or six times a week on my way to the grocery store or the bank. I’ve walked it for about thirty-five years now. Henry and I used to walk it together. Now I walk it alone. I cross the little bridge over the dry creek-bed between my housing tract and this one. It’s a mile and half each way. I’ve watched this neighborhood grow, mature and gray. I watched the second-hand cars morph into glossy SUVs. Previously-owned economy cars bloomed in front of the homes, as the children reached driving age, then vanished as offspring went off to college, work, families of their own.  Motorhomes replaced the cars, retirees indulging their dreams of freedom, of travel. Lately, white vans with names like “Mobility Solutions” and “Warm Hands Living Assistance” have replaced the motorhomes. Next will come the estate sale vans. My life marches along in those same steps. Someday Emelie will have an estate sale, put my house on the market, and the cycle will repeat. I know it’s coming, but each day, when I’m walking, it doesn’t feel like it’s coming. I feel like I’m still a young mom with a brilliant, beautiful daughter, a miraculous late-in-life child, a daughter who likes me.

I know the youngsters blame us for the problems of the world. I understand. To them, we’re like pests, an invasive species. It’s because there are so many of us. We’re not really invasive, if you think about it. And we are going away, all of us, maybe just not fast enough for some.

Your Speed: Doves

Doves? That’s funny. I’ve never seen that before. Invasive species; doves are a case in point. The neighborhood swarms –or used to, anyway — with big, messy ring-necked doves. They drive smaller birds off my bird-feeders, and they’re noisy; from that irritating cooing to a mechanical rasping sound, chrrr, that sends shivers up my spine. The other week I had a new dove in the backyard. I called it the stupid dove because it was so slow. It couldn’t even find the feeder. Ugly, too, bedraggled wings and plumage the color of tarnished pewter. It looked like it was molting.

Your Speed: Run

These signs are so easy to hack. I wonder if the hacker’s nearby, changing it remotely. Get the old woman to run, that’s pretty funny. And it’s just not happening, not with my knees.

Your Speed: Run

I sent Emelie a video of the stupid dove. She’s studying diseases in birds, I thought she might recognize the variety. She said the video gave Kendra nightmares. I felt bad. I think Emelie blamed me for the nightmares, but then, she blames me for everything except global warming, and maybe even that. Like I said. I’m in her way.

I don’t know where the stupid doves came from. I thought the neighborhood cats –there used to be a passel of them – would take care of them, but the other day I saw a pair of those ugly birds. I haven’t seen the cats lately. This house right here, for instance, there’s a tuxedo cat that yowls, and then figure-eights itself around my ankles. I don’t see it today.

Your Speed: Zombie.

These kids and their zombies.

And now that I think about it, where is everybody? I stop and look around at the nearby houses. Usually in that yard there’s a woman watering her flower border. She wears a straw hat with big yellow flowers on it, and waters by hand. We always say hello to each other. She’s not here today.

I look at the house. There is a hole in her living room window.

Across the street, the house on the corner, glass is punched out of the windows in starburst shapes as wide as my two fists held together.

Your Speed: Doves.

This isn’t so funny. I reach for my phone, to look up NeighborShield and see if this vandalism has been reported.

Your Speed: Run.

Who would do this? And why is it all so quiet?

I hear a chrrrr in the trees behind me and I turn and look. There is a dove on a high branch. It is the new variety, tarnished pewter. It turns its head and glares at me out of a red eye. Now there’s another, and another. Chrrr.

Your Speed: Doves. Run. Run. Zombie. Doves. Run.

I’m too old to run. There is no place to shelter me. Behind me, above me, all around me, the rustling of their dead wings fills the air.

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