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The Kite Flyer MAG
I thought it was too icy to be out flying a kite. But Vera was the one who had labored over her beautiful aircraft for three hours, who had poured her heart into raising up this headstrong baby bird, so she thought differently. It wasn't raining, but even if it was, I think she would have gone out front to fly it anyway.
I, of course, watched from the window, with cocoa.
Vera was an expert kite flyer. She made kites out of construction paper and pipe cleaners, and then newspaper and sticks, and most recently a beautiful kit she bought for seventeen dollars and ninety-five cents at the craft store. The kite she was flying then was green, and she had rescued it from the park dumpster where someone had left it, fabric ripped and wood cracked. Like the tell-tale beak and feathers left on your porch when a cat eats a bird. It looked dead. But Vera wouldn't have walked past a ratty kite or a dead bird without trying to save it. She didn't give up on things, ever.
And I guess that was good, because there she was, flying that dead bird kite in the sky.
It got up there quickly, and stayed up there effortlessly. She was at the end of the string before a clock's minute hand could go from one number to another. Her face was chapped and pink; her freckles crawled like cold fleas on her cheeks, scrunching together and back a part again, trying to burrow into her face in fruitless attempt to get warm. Black, straight hair danced like a Chinese dragon on New Years, flicking and flipping in and out of her eyes. And through all that, she kept flying.
The kite did not come down.
I was in the windowsill, with my cocoa which I had and she did not. In the cup there was also a peppermint stick and two marshmallows, both of which were mine and not hers. So, I was happy. I watched her out there through the whole mug, until I had drained the powdery dregs of chocolate from the cup. I couldn't hear her through the window and over the wind, but her face was laughing with triumph. She had raised that orphan kite into a champion. I watched her from the top of the peppermint stick to the bottom, and when that was gone, I watched her through both marshmallows. Her cheeks looked wet, but it was not raining. Even when I had eaten everything and suddenly had nothing she did not, I kept watching. I somehow could feel how very lucky I was to be alive in that very moment in that very place where I was, that I was the only person on Earth who got the privilege to see my sister fly that day. She had the advantage, after all. She had a kite and I did not.
The kite did not come down.
But then it was dinnertime and there was spaghetti in the kitchen, and at certain times in life spaghetti is the most important thing in the whole world. So I came when I was called and I sat next to Vera's empty chair and waited until Granma would put the plate of glorious pasta in front of me. But first Granma looked out the window and saw Vera was still there, laughing like a madman in the wind. Granma would not eat without a full table, and she wouldn't let anyone else eat until she had eaten.
So, "Go get your sister, Nicole." I had no choice.
I suited up with a blanket around my shoulders and two pairs of thick socks so I could meet Vera, out in her shorts and flip-flops, in the tundra. I shivered up to her and stood there by her, my head right at her shoulder. When I looked up, I saw the orphan kite millions of light-years away. If I had reached out my hand, I could have touched the string. I could have known what it would feel like to be that kite’s mother, but I couldn't have known what it felt like to be Vera in that moment. I'm sure it was a very happy feeling. I stood there for a long time, watching her keep something in the air with the sheer power of her heart and her hands.
"Are you hungry, Vera?"
"Granma says you have to come in for dinner."
"We're having spaghetti."
"I won't go in."
"We're having spaghetti, Vera."
So I shuffled back to the door and bared the bad news to Granma that Vera would not be joining us for dinner on this occasion. Granma made a face like she had forgotten to add sugar to her lemonade, and then heaped twice as much spaghetti on my plate. When she was mad at one granddaughter, by default she doted upon the other.
"Vera will just not have dinner tonight." she said sternly. "Or chocolate cake" This, of course, meant that I would have chocolate cake and she would not. But that didn't matter.
The kite did not come down.
Dinner was over and so was dessert, and we went to the couch and watched cop shows. Vera loved cop shows and we were only allowed to watch them with Granma, who also loved cop shows and more importantly would not tell our parents about them. Granma positioned the TV so that it would show out the window, so Vera could see what she was sacrificing for that stupid kite of hers. "She'll come in soon." Granma whispered to me. "I know she will." But she did not. Even after we turned off the TV and got into pajamas.
The kite did not come down.
"This is ridiculous!" said Granma. "It's getting late. It's getting dark! Nicole, bring your sister inside now!"
This time I did not suit up for the arctic landscape. I did put on Granma's slippers, but only because they had bunnies on the toes, and Vera liked bunnies, so I thought maybe she would follow them inside. I went up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder. The kite jerked in the sky, but didn't fall.
She was angry. "You could have made the kite fall!" she said, close to tears. "You could have made it fall!"
"I'm sorry." I whispered, because I didn't know how scared she was going to be, or how scary. "You have to come in now, okay?"
"No, I don't." Vera said. "If I go in the kite will fall down."
"I know." I said. "But you sort of have to. Granma sort of said so."
She looked away from me and back up at the kite. "Don't you think it looks pretty, Nicole?" I looked up at it, and it was. All you could see was a string disappearing into the air, because the kite itself was shrouded in stars and tar. But it felt very good to know that there was a kite at the end of that string, some million light-years away, like being in on a secret. And that was very, very pretty.
"Yeah." I said. "It's pretty. But we have to go in now. It's night."
"No!" she cried. "I have to keep the kite up there. It's going to stay up there forever!"
That was when I got very, very scared. I don't know why. Maybe it was the thought of my sister being out there, always and forever, wasting away in the icy wind, but I don't think that was it. After all, that was where Vera was happiest. I guess it was the notion that something as pretty as that would last forever. Pretty things don't last. They never last. And certainly not forever.
"No." I said. "It can't stay up there forever. It can't stay up there forever!"
Vera, of course, knew this all along. She was not a stupid girl. She had merely been avoiding the thought. She turned to me, and she was pathetic. She was grasping at straws. "Why not?" she whispered.
"Because," I said, "Nothing stays up there forever. Not even the best kite. They've all gotta come down."
"Why?" she sobbed.
"I don't know." I said quietly. "I don't really know."
Her hand relaxed on the string and her freckles grew wet.
The kite came down.