“In Flew Enza,” Matt Schirtzinger

by MP

     Robby tucked the last bite of greens into his mouth and munched them down to thin little strings that he swallowed with a drink of milk. Under his breath he hummed that little tune the Turner girls next door used to sing when they jumped rope in their yard. When he was sick and stuck in bed he had liked it when he woke up and heard their voices outside. Sometimes when he woke up it was light and sometimes it was dark, but it was nice when they were singing outside. The song was very simple, and repeated over and over in his head as he fell back asleep.
     I had a little bird
     After a while, they had stopped singing outside his window. He would wait to hear them when he was awake and the noise would never come, so he would hum it himself. Now that he was well again and his throat didn’t hurt he was glad to sit at the little table and eat greens. They still tasted yucky, but anything was better than the medicine and the broth he’d had to eat while sick. It was nice to sit with Papa as he read the paper, and he liked the smell of the grilled cheese crackling on the stove where Mama scraped the skillet.
     “Papa?” Robby swung his legs back and forth, toes barely skimming the yellow linoleum.
     “Yes Robert?” Papa looked up from where he was absently dragging his fork through a bright leafy salad.
     “Where did Marie and Alice go?”
     “They just went away. Their parents took them far away.” Papa kept digging around, picking out the little carrot pieces and moving them to the side of the plate. Benjamin frowned. He got yelled at when he messed around with food like that, but Papa knows best, so he knew he shouldn’t say anything about it.
     its name was Enza
     “You mean like when we went to visit Gramma?” Robby asked.
     Papa sighed. “If you’re done eating, you should go play outside. The newspaper says it’s safe again. Maybe you’ll see one of your friends.”
     Robby skipped down the street, leather shoes clap-clapping on the cobblestones. He saw Mr. Torczewski standing outside his store, and waved hello before turning down the road towards Billy’s house. He wondered if Mr. Torczewski had candy again now that the War was over, but decided it would be better to come back later with Billy. Billy liked the candy even more than Robby, and one time ate so many of the swirly colorful lollipops that he threw up a little bit. Boy his mama had been mad at him then.
     —I opened the window
     He knocked on the yellow door to Billy’s house and waited. The door opened just a crack and Billy’s mama’s face appeared like a ghostly moon in the midday sun.
     “Hullo Mrs. Bolda!” he said cheerfully. “It’s Robby. I was wondering if Billy wanted to come out and play. My Papa says that its safe again and we’ll be going to school on Monday.”
     Mrs. Bolda shrunk back into the dim house. “Billy’s not in,” she whispered, moving to close the door again. Her face was partially covered with a black veil, like the one Robby’s mother had worn when they went to church for Grandpapa when Robby was five.
     “Where did he go?”
     “Ask your mother,” Mrs. Bolda retreated back to the dark of the house and shut the door. Robby shrugged. He jumped down the steps and walked down the street, accompanied only by skittering leaves and cold November wind. Maybe Jacob would want to play.
     —and Influenza.