Fiction

Braids

Zelda Galewsky

The wind is blowing out front of the church. Mexican women are setting up makeshift flower tents. A sign on the door says, “Los Globos no son permitidos adentro de la iglesia.” Beneath that, it reads, “No balloons allowed in the church.” In between, an uneven hand has scrawled “Class of 2014.” The swear word that came next has been scribbled out.

Little children—siblings of the graduates—are sitting on the steps, a bundle of stiff collars and patent leather and polka dots. The air is warm. It’s morning.

There are three of them on the steps. Sitting highest is the boy, six, playing a racing game on his phone. The older sister, eleven, is braiding the hair of her younger sister. The tiny girl is maybe three, sitting on the lowest step, talking expressively without making any sense.

“These clouds are liars,” she says in her little kid voice, and a few adults nearby glance up to see.

Every few minutes, applause bursts out from the open church doors behind the children. Day-old sidewalk chalk fades at their feet. An ice cream truck rolls by struggling to squeeze through the lines of cars parked along the street. The children ignore it.

Sitting upright, the older sister periodically unwinds the braids she’s finished, runs her hands through her sister’s hair, straightens it, holds it up, lets the wind blow through and lift it.

“My hair is like a kite!” the little girl says.

The boy loses his game, groans a little, looks up at the sky in frustration, shakes his head, begins again. He’s wearing a pin on his shirt that says “I did it!” in metallic turquoise glitter. His clip-on tie is perfect; his pants are at least four inches too short.

A graying white couple walks up. The man is dressed in khakis and a blazer with shining brass buttons. The woman wears big blue pearls around her neck. Beads of sweat form at his temples; makeup congeals on her face. They’re late.

“You kids know if this is the graduation?” he asks.

“Is the graduation in here or what?”

The younger sister in polka dots stops talking to herself and, looks up at him. She points down the street. Her older sister nods. The boy is immersed in his game.

“Well thank you, little lady,” he smiles, and the two walk off away from the church toward a bowling alley in the distance.

The big sister returns to her little sister’s hair. She braids and unbraids, runs her hands through, lets the wind blow, begins again.

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