Maisy down the Street
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night when it happened. I think that’s what made it worse for her, that it was a bright day full of sunshine. That instead of cold and overcast, the leaves were green, and turned out from their branches toward the sky. Windchimes hung over porches and sang in the breeze, marking that it was the first true day of Spring. It was her favorite season.
Maisy got off the school bus that day with her backpack snug between her shoulders and its tails flapping against the backs of her knees. As she walked down her street, she passed by flowerbeds filled with fresh blooms and hungry bumble bees. Mr. Fanlin stopped pulling weeds to wave at her as she marched by, as he did every day. He had always made sure to be in his front yard when the bus came by at four pm, because he had taken it upon himself to always make sure he could always watch her walk home safely. Though he’d never admit it, he loved that little girl. They all did.
It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child and for Maisy that was true. From the moment the Keaton’s had brought her home, she become the de-facto grandchild of the neighborhood. All of their homes had been emptied of their own children long ago, but Maisy down the street lived in all their hearts. Every house on that street knew the sound of her laughter, celebrated her birthdays with their own, and had watched her grow up and go off to grade school.
The Keaton’s house was the third from the end of the street on the right. Maisy would spend ten minutes most days walking home from the bus stop, but that day she would only take eight. Mrs. Drisden would say that she had an extra pep in her step. Mr. Drisden would say that it was bad luck. But that wasn’t true; luck had nothing to do with that day. It could’ve taken her an hour to make that walk and it wouldn’t have changed anything.
Mr. Keaton always came home late on Tuesdays. His boss would schedule late afternoon meetings that would turn into early evening meetings that would turn into “Honey, keep dinner warm for me” nights. Even that day he’d get home later than he should. Mrs. Trulton would have to dig through her kitchen drawers to find his beeper number, given to them years ago when Mrs. Keaton was ready to pop. It would take them more than three tries to get ahold of him.
The Wilkersons’ were closest to the Keaton house. Their properties were separated only by a white metal fence no higher than your knee. More of a symbol than a barrier. The two households visited frequently and considered each other to be more family than neighbor. Which is why it came as no surprise that Mrs. Wilkerson was the first to notice their front door hadn’t closed. At first, she ignored it. She smiled as Maisy swung it open, knowing that in a moment or two, Mrs. Keaton would come and shut it behind her. But then that moment or two passed, and the door still stood wide.
There was no real cause for alarm of course, Mrs. Keaton was probably cooking dinner and welcomed the cool air. Mrs. Wilkerson nodded and closed her eyes, resting back against the porch swing she drifted off to the song of birds chirping. When she woke from her afternoon nap, the sun was still shining. Her mother’s cuckoo clock rang from her living room announcing that it was nearly five o’clock, and in the yard beside her would be Maisy playing with her dolls before dinner. But, when Mrs. Wilkerson blinked away the remnants of her sleep, and peered over into her neighbor’s yard she saw that the young girl was nowhere to be found, and the front door still hung open.
A sickly feeling crept down her spine; she would call it her intuition. With a great sigh, she pushed herself out of the porch swing and called to her husband that she was going over to investigate. It would take her a minute to get there, her old bones weren’t what they used to be and her knees made even the smallest steps feel like mountains, but she would get there in her own time and see that surely nothing was wrong. She was just a snooping old lady like her husband said. Maisy would be at the dinner table with her mother telling stories of her day at school, and they would both look up at her in surprise when she said she was worried something was wrong, then they’d send her on her way.
She first knocked against the door frame; a quick three raps to let them know she was there. When she didn’t get an answer, she tried again, this time against the door itself. The knocks fell hollow and echoed through the house like loud thuds. That sickly feeling had settled itself in her stomach like a cold rock. Mrs. Wilkerson called out to her husband again, demanding that he come over too. Mr. Wilkerson was used to indulging his wife's snoopish behavior, and while he begrudgingly made his way around the house, Mrs. Wilkerson leaned in across the threshold to call for Mrs. Keaton.
Maisy was found in the kitchen sitting next to where her mother had fallen; her backpack was still on, with its tails tucked beneath her legs. A few stray tears had dried in tracks on her cheeks, and her eyes sat in a fixed daze over her mother’s face. Mrs. Wilkerson, no longer aware of the burning in her knees, bent down and scooped the child up, burying her face into her breast. As she brought her arm up to support Maisy’s bottom, she realized that the young girl had wet herself, be it from fear or maybe just not being able to move to get to the potty. It didn’t matter.
Mr. Wilkerson pushed past his wife as she hurried out the house. All he could make out of her mutterings was something about the kitchen. The young lady had collapsed on the floor, beside the stove. He lowered himself down to his knee to check her pulse, though he knew in his heart he didn’t have to. Live skin never looked that cold. When asked about it later, he would say that he thought it had been a heart attack, the way her arm had laid up against her chest and her face all twisted up as it was. She would’ve had to have gone on sometime in the morning he figured.
The rest of the neighborhood had already started to make its way over; asking what had happened, each giving orders for what they thought should be done next. All while Maisy sat there in Mrs. Wilkerson’s arms. Her tiny face peeked out from its hiding place watching the people move around in a panic, while her backpack started to grow heavy, and her new dress lay soiled.
They would all go on to say that she was too young to know what happened. There could be truth to that, but I think that spring days were different from then on. Maisy would grow quiet when the air was bright and sunny; she would wait for doors to be opened for her, and she could never forget the smell.
About the Creator
I like to put pieces of myself into my writing. Sometimes it's a finger, sometimes a toe, but it's always something that gets stuck to the roof of your mouth and leaves a lingering feel in your gut.
Great Storytelling ❤️
I was completely committed by your third paragraph with the village analogy. And then it was like the stairs went flat and there was nothing to hang onto. What sad way for such a beautiful ride to end. What a brilliant piece!
A sad story, but well told. Thanks for sharing it.