The Tiki - Jan Edwards

That morning as she headed out for work, Willa pulled her keys from the hobo bag and something dropped out. It rolled across the porch and bounced down the wooden stairs. After locking her front door she walked slowly down, on the look-out for the fallen object. Reaching the sidewalk, she sat on the bottom step.

There it was, at the toe of her boot, the tiki with a missing eye.

Just looking at the crudely carved bit of stone dragged her back. She was only twenty-four on that February day when she had found it lying just like this at the toe of another boot. She closed her eyes and was there again, on that Haight Street corner.

****

The mist glistens on the toes of her Doc Martens. She tugs her leg warmers over her knees, bridging the gap to the ruffled petticoat and buttons her jean jacket up to the neck. She draws her braid over her shoulder to keep it from tangling with the wide leather strap on her hobo bag and waits at the corner to cross with the light.

The beer truck inches forward blocking the crosswalk. From the tail of her eye, Willa catches sight of the bicycle tearing down the hill. She freezes. Her heart bashes into her rib cage. The truck begins its turn. The bike skids on the slick asphalt. Bystanders gasp in shock as it plows into the hood. Truck brakes squeal. The rider flies up into the sky. He seems to hang above her for a moment, his open sweatshirt flapping behind him like a cape, before dropping inches from her feet with a crack and the chilling crunch of bones.

The next sound is her own scream "Don't die! Don't die!" repeated over and over like a mantra, as her eyes lock with the wild stare of the boy on the pavement. His back is bent at a crazy angle and a leg bone pokes out through his jeans. Blood pools around his hair like a halo, trickling dark and shiny into the gutter.

Willa sinks to the curb, quivering as the medics load his body into the ambulance.

The mist turns to droplets and then to rain, washing the last of the boy down the sewer grate and finally into the ocean.

That's when she first sees it, at the toe of her boot, the tiki carving with one of its shell eyes missing. She picks it up and strings it onto her key ring.

*****

Willa held it in her palm. Should it stay with her for another decade?

She thought of the MIA bracelet her dad had worn to his dying day, long after hope of finding the soldier was gone. She looked at her friend Hank's ring still on her finger. Then threaded the tiki back on with her keys and dropped them into her bag, as she headed down the hill to stand again on that same corner, waiting for the Muni.

END

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