What Happened to Penny?
An excerpt from The Former Hero.
With a clamor she burst onto the bright doorstep, one hand across her brow.
She strode out to the street and looked one way and then the other.
Up and down the sidewalk she saw a long mural of pastel chalk drawings: a winged horse and a man with some features of a vampire, a range of hills with cattle grazing and a sunset, and something like a dragon and angels and lightning bolts, and a commentary of misspelled words all around.
Further down was a simple house, and soaring over it was a stick-figure of a girl and a cat with big blue teardrops.
The girl had wings and flew over the house holding the cat’s hand.
Flames came out one side of the house, and beside it was a simple, grown-up figure, bland except for a scribble of long dark hair.
“Penny! Penelope Flax!”
The bird still chirped and a gust blew her mahogany hair.
An airplane motor hummed far away overhead, a descant above the distant highway noise. And the bare stick branches of the tree tapped together in the breeze like the ticking of some wild clock.
The glass tumbler with a little wine slipped from her hand and smashed on the cement, and time stood still while the earth shifted beneath her, while the lightning struck in her eyes, while all creation’s colors muted together through a smoky lens.
The girl was gone.