By Massimo Sartor

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It looked like large black bird with broken wings. Jeremy kicked it as it lay motionless in the puddle as we stood under a storefront awning waiting for a bus. Ripples puckered out from it. He reached down to pick it up.

“Jeremy, no,” I said, admonishing him as if he were a dog picking up a stick. “It’s dirty,” I added, as way of explanation. He was four. The world was still a mystery to him and these weekly visits to his mom were just a ritual. A tucked in shirt. Sitting at the back of the bus. The gift shop. Ice cream.

“Um-bella,” he said, as I crouched down to get a closer look. He was right. It was a dilapidated umbrella. Mangled from a gust of wind and hastily discarded. I picked it up and tried to open it. The tracking device that allowed the umbrella to glide open was jammed. I shook the umbrella. Jeremy stepped back and covered his face from the sprayed rain droplets. He giggled to himself.

“Stop. Da. Stop.”

I tried to open the damaged umbrella once more. It flapped wildly in my hands as uncooperative as a tethered bird trying to take flight. Jeremy found my determined efforts comical and giggled loudly. The umbrella was soon turned inside out; its sharp rib-like frame exposed. Like an ensnared animal, I pulled and ripped at it. Jeremy continued to snicker–each chuckle adding to my frenzied state. The more the umbrella was secured in one section, the more it bulged in another, creating the perfect counterbalance that I could never achieve in life.

I wrenched at it, tearing it wildly, until finally giving up. I heaved the bungled mess into the street. The crumpled umbrella bounced and tumbled as a burst of wind prodded it along like a hobbling multi-legged beast. A car passing in the opposite direction swerved around it. Another smashed into it, sending it airborne.

Jeremy clapped wildly at the spectacle while I clutched my hand. 

The umbrella finally pinned itself against a lamppost and sat there motionless.

Jeremy looked up at me and smiled. It was a jubilant face. One that I hadn’t seen in a long time.

A bus pulled up to the curb, careful not to splash us and opened its doors wide. They squeaked.

I looked down. A dribble of blood rolled to the end of my fingertips.

Massimo Sartor