Free Duplex by Kathryn Davis

Book: Duplex by Kathryn Davis Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kathryn Davis
many cars. The sorcerer stepped out of his car and looked to see if anyone was watching. There were procedures for fixing things like this but the last thing in the world he needed was an audience.
    It was then that he saw that what he’d hit was no human child at all but something that looked like a toy, a bear in fact, yellow in color. It had leaped out in front of him—of that he was certain. The car had inflicted no damage the sorcerer could see. When he picked up the toy it was smiling at him, its little mouth slightly open and eager, revealing the tip of the tongue but no teeth. It held its forepaws against its chest in a posture the sorcerer knew signified submission. Mary had said she wanted a girl and the Yellow Bear seemed more like a boy, but then again it didn’t have genitals. The sorcerer wiped it clean and put it on the passenger seat; a jingling sound came from it like it was a hard rubber cat toy with a bell inside. But the bear wasn’t made of hard rubber. It was made of something soft and warm, more like skin.
    Of course he recognized the creature for what it was right away; he’d been waiting for it. The Yellow Bear made its first appearance bobbing around on the swollen waters after the Great Flood, following which it disappeared for a while. It tended to show up in periods of unusual stress or upheaval. Even though it looked like it had been made in a factory by unskilled laborers, it had been forged in the Cradle of Civilization and was said to be the product of a collaboration between humans and machines, lending some credence to the belief that machines had been on the planet long before humans were capable of making them.
    From the living room window of number 49 Miss Vicks stood watching, having been lured from her television program by the sound of squealing brakes. If she stood back she could remain invisible and still have a good view of the sorcerer. He continued to sit in the car, staring straight ahead toward the other end of the street where the trolleys ran. Sometimes he looked down at whatever it was he’d leaned over to pick up and deposited on the seat beside him. The expression on his face was one she’d never seen there before and it surprised her, tender and clumsy, paternal almost.
    It was dark enough now that the streetlights were turning the sycamores into stage trees with unnaturally bright green leaves, the moon and stars to props. You could see the blue lights of the scows, hear the high-pitched voices of boys playing baseball. After what seemed like a very long time the sorcerer started up the car and drove away.
    Miss Vicks came onto her porch and sat in her glider. She’d shut the dachshund in the kitchen with a bone to keep him busy while she was spying on the sorcerer, and now the dog was whining to get out. All up and down the street girls were strolling, arms linked. The understanding was they were allowed to go anywhere as long as they behaved themselves—people had never gotten over the Rain of Beads, but these were obedient girls for the most part. The ones passing Miss Vicks’s porch were singing a song from a hit musical: “The mist of May is in the gloaming, and all the clouds are holding still, so take my hand and let’s go roaming through the heather on the hill.” Most of them had sweet voices. Just one—and Miss Vicks thought she had a pretty good idea who it was—couldn’t hold a tune but sang louder than the rest of them combined, spoiling everything.
    “There may be other days as rich and rare, there may be other springs as full and fair ...” The singing was loud enough that Miss Vicks smelled the photographer’s horse before she heard it, the pleasant tock-tock-tock of its shod hooves on the macadam. Grass was at the heart of the smell, mediated by the smell of perspiration and saddle leather, combining to unlock a completely different set of memories from the ones unlocked by a lawn mower. Miss Vicks had been a passable equestrienne in her

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