The Spring of the Blue Herons

That was the spring all of the blue herons laid their eggs too early and the eggs were gobbled up by the alligators. That was also the spring that Bobby Bathurst dared Carolyn Kestner to take off her bra in the back of the bus. Carolyn Kestner did just that, slipping the straps through the sleeves of her T-shirt and flinging the bra out the window where it landed on Mrs. Vitullo’s windshield, causing her to slam her Dodge Dart into a telephone pole by the Magic Market where Danny Dittmer was playing Ms. Pacman and Danny Dittmer ran out to give Mrs. Vitullo CPR until the ambulance arrived. He never skipped school again and decided to become an EMT. Not a doctor, we were not a town where the kids grew up to become doctors. I, for example, wanted to be a secretary and liked to spend Saturdays creating work for myself in my stepdad’s office while he made calls to other pharmaceutical salesman and handed me typing paper to staple. And then I did become a secretary, and I worked for Mark Becker, who wore suspenders and practiced divorce and bankruptcy. This was four springs after the blue herons almost went extinct. I put together batches of Discovery, like Mr. and Mrs. Vitullo, who had been trying to divorce for 13 years. I started smoking cigarettes because Mark Becker smoked and liked to offer me a cigarette while he talked and I listened, knees pressed together, imagining what it would be like to kiss a man with a moustache. But he never made a pass at me and that was the spring Danny Dittmer found me crying in my dinged-up Toyota Corolla with the windows that didn’t roll all the way up, and he said, “We had speech class together.” I unlocked the door and he folded himself into my car, pushing the seat back because his legs were so long. Danny Dittmer said, “Do you have any future plans?” And until that moment, my future plans were to force Mark Becker to fall in love with me, but Danny Dittmer didn’t wait for my answer. He was headed to EMT training and he looked out the window. “It’s a lot of gore but I like the idea of having an impact in the community,” and after he stopped talking, he kissed me, and handed me a peppermint and right then a blue heron landed on the telephone pole that Mrs. Vitullo hit. The wood still had a chip in it, but you couldn’t see it because the mark was covered up by a poster for a lost tabby cat, Mr. Chauncy, and I said, “Look at that,” and we stared at the blue heron and he held my hand and I sucked the sweetness out of the mint before crushing it with my back teeth, thinking, This must be a sign.

Aimee LaBrie’s short stories have appeared in The Minnesota Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, StoryQuarterly, Cimarron Review, Pleiades, Beloit Fiction Journal, Permafrost Magazine, and others. Her second short story collection, Rage and Other Cages, will be published by Leapfrog Press this fall. In 2007, her first short story collection, Wonderful Girl, was awarded the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction and published by University of North Texas Press. Her short fiction has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. In 2012 she won first place in the Zoetrope: All-Story’s Short Fiction Competition.