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Everyone's Velocity


The baby falls out of the window in the most obvious and beautiful diminuendo. The street below is full of iced garbage, the dumpsters blooming the alley, nest-deep and solidified. Everything stinks, fuming as the air warms; everything melting and stinking in spite of winter. The city won’t send snowplow trucks because of the ice and the city won’t send garbage trucks because of the ice. The garbage trucks will arrive in a few days; the snowplow trucks will never arrive.

When the garbage trucks arrive two men—burly and average—will find the baby. Winter pockmarks the face, bewildering them. They won’t decipher right away if it is human, the force of impact, the distance, the sick feeling in their bowels. These men are good, dogged men. They take pride in the occupation of trash, are happy. After their shift, instead of going to get beer like usual, they both head home in opposite directions on opposite trains to opposite sides of the city to their families.

When the baby diminuendos in the most obvious, beautiful flight, our windows rattle. A plane is too low to the ground, our ears pop. A siren in the distance is deaf, dumb and too far away. The pressure from the airplane. We shake a bet on which direction everything is headed; the plane, the siren. We sit and listen for a long while. When the siren’s mouth is faint, is disappearing, I pocket my one dollar bill. We are two girls chain-linked, arm in arm, side by side. We are the game of telephone, where something said follows down a line of ears and mouths until, at the end, the something said is no longer what it was, taken on a new muddle. We keep shifting to something that never was before, as if nothing was ever uttered in the first place.

The baby’s diminuendo lives inside the pop of our ears, the airplane, the melting, the siren, the music from brother’s room, fuming garbage. We run to tell brother of the baby and he is slumped on the floor, many perfect cyclical holes in the wall above his head. He is laughing. Everyone’s sirens hurt our ears, everyone’s velocity is laughing too close. The brother won’t listen about the baby, screams at us to leave the room, points the BB gun in his hands at our faces.

We run to the open window, our heads huddled together in a line, figuring out the distance between point A above us and point X below us, how easy it is to forget how flights create perception. Look at the baby I say aloud once downstairs. We can hear the sirens again, closer but coming only as close as the snowplow will come.

Katie Jean Shinkle serves as Managing Editor for Del Sol Press, Nonfiction Editor for Black Warrior Review and as an Assistant Poetry Editor for DIAGRAM. She misses snow in dreams, but in waking life spends most of her time in Alabama, where it snows little.