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Shaking Off Death

Packed up, we’re lugging our conglomeration of canvas totes down to the car. In my hand I grip a bag of insect killer. This trip to New Orleans has been full of flea bites. Red, swollen knots that itch like the devil and lump up like a goose egg. The insect killer—all natural—was purchased by the apartment manager on her own time, hunting it down in Metairie because the Home Depot and Lowe’s in New Orleans were sold out. I shook the stuff all over the carpet like lethal baby powder. I am returning the unused portion to the manager on our way out.
The elevator dings, the door opens. A gurney emerges, followed by a guy wearing a dark blue EMT suit. A second EMT pushes the gurney, followed by the apartment manager. “You’re going to turn down this direction,” she says.
“This apartment building smells good,” the lead EMT says.
They proceed down the hallway.
They walk nonchalant, like they have all the time in the world.
“Someone’s dead,” I say to Tom. “They’re not hurrying at all.”
On a second trip down, we pass the EMTs again. The gurney has a passenger. She didn’t look good, Tom says. But she wasn’t dead. She lives at the end of the hall. I don’t know her name.
When we turn onto I-10 an ambulance with flashing red lights follows us. Maybe the one from our building. “It’s coming right up our tailpipe,” Tom says.
In between trips to and from the car, I gave the bag of insect killer to the apartment manager. She accepted it. She said the engineer would sprinkle more around the apartment while we were gone. She smiled. She looked pale.
I can’t believe I’m bothering her about fleas.

here’s to creative synthesis . . .

apartment manager, insect killer, lowe s, trip to new orleans

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