An Unlikely Chaperone A snap fiction story

This snap fiction story (what’s that?) took flight thanks to a photo that I took as I walked the dog, after I spotted a stork on a street light surveying its terri­tory.

An Unlikely Chaperone

Ten more minutes, that’s all she’d give it. Haley resisted checking her watch—again—but did it anyway. Three forty-seven. Asshole.

True, she’d been maybe five minutes late to the park herself; but this was outra­geous.

Hello Mr. Stork,” she sighed to the graceful bird that had been eyeing her atten­tively from atop his lamp­post for the past three-fucking-quar­ters-of-an-hour. It, appar­ently, also didn’t have anything better to do.

Hello Haley, thought the stork.

It did, of course, have better things to do—but it had decided to keep an eye on her for a while.

Marc had been too cute to ignore, too feromoney to resist, too stupid to put up with, too easy to let go, and finally, drum­roll please, too chicken too show up today. Good riddance for lack of good manners.

Why am I still here, Mr. Stork? Why are you? Are we both just wasting our time?”

I’m not, Haley dear.

If she was being really honest, Haley wanted more than her things back. She wanted a time refund. She imag­ined a temporal lost-and-found desk where she could say, “I just wasted six months of my life on this douchebag. Can I have them back please?”

Time is never really lost, dear. It becomes a space inside you. And you, pretty Haley, are not putting that space to good use.

Haley stared back, hard. Was that bird really watching her? In its stead­fast eyes, she sensed a primor­dial intel­li­gence, some­thing inher­ited from a great-great-uncle with T-Rex DNA. If she moved, it would see her—or was it already seeing the absence of her, the outline of what she’d thought she’d become?

She stood up and stepped closer, never unlocking their gazes.

You know what, you’re right! I’m sick and tired of being the one who waits. I want to be like you, all steely storky calm and poise.”

Thank you dear. And while we’re on the subject: you do know that those ten minutes are up, don’t you?

The bird had been motion­less for so long that it star­tled Haley when it opened out its wings and shook them, preparing for flight. She pulled her satchel’s strap higher on her shoulder and, without checking her watch, started ambling back to the bus stop.

Charming crea­ture, thought the stork, very much unlike the young man who sat fidgeting on that same park bench for no more than a handful of minutes before dashing off again, just before she arrived.

As he flew over Haley, casting his shadow along her path, Mr. Stork thought he caught the soupçon of a smile on her unpainted lips.

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