UNSPENT • by Kate Curran

The leaf blower started again.

Running through her sliding glass door in an open, yellow robe and fuzzy slippers, Eloise bent to scoop up a handful of fountain stones, smooth river rocks polished and wet, shining bits of natural art, as zen-like as the box had promised. Then running like a river unpent, her gray hair flying loose, Eloise charged the fence with her arm cocked.

“Stop it!”

“Stop it. Stop it! Stop it!” Like demons popping from her chest, her shrill shrieks could be heard over the tiny engine’s buzz. But Roy was lost in a revery of blower buzz and AC/DC’s heavy metal.

The rocks flew from Eloise’s hands with surprising speed. Across Roy’s back fence, Irene watched the drama unfold, chuckling over her morning coffee. Eloise wasn’t a bad aim, but Roy was a moving target, bobbing and weaving with the blower tube, checking for leaves behind the pylons of the deck, working this way and that to free one final leaf from the clutches of the Gumpo Pink azalea.

She hit the deck first, then a window, two fell into the goldfish pond, finally she hit the blower itself. Roy froze, looking through the debris on the ground wondering how he had stirred up a rock hard enough to kick back and hit the blower. In that moment of stillness, Eloise’s aim was true. Wound tight as the body of a major league pitcher, she hurled her last stone with seven years of pent up venom and struck Roy in the right temple. Roy’s body dropped to the ground like a puppet without its strings, but Eloise didn’t see him. She was already on her way back to the fountain for more ammunition.

In the silence, the water in Eloise’s fountain gurgled softly and a mockingbird reveled repeatedly in the sound of its own voice. Irene hesitated, then picked up the phone. When the paramedics arrived, they found Roy alive, but unconscious, the blower motor still puttering on the ground next to him, waiting for his finger to resurrect its former glory and Eloise, standing at the fence, her robe pockets filled to the brim with river stones.

Kate Curran lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her daughters, Emily and Olivia, taught her the power of storytelling.

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