She had always had a passport and, as they each expired, their spines unbroken, their pages bereft of a single stamp, they went into confinement in the bottom drawer of the dining room sideboard along with the maps and the odd travel brochure gathered in haste and ignored in leisure.
Once, when she was thirteen, her family had sent her to visit relatives, flying her out in a driving rain to pass through the ferocity of the storm and land in a verdant, sunny city far, far away.
Uncle Joe and his wife felt the compunction to keep her entertained every minute of every day, dining on exotic foods from distant lands and roaming museums and galleries. On Saturday they went to see the local baseball team play a home game inside a giant building. Dottie had never been inside a building that big, let alone one that housed a baseball field and all its attendant fans. Uncle Joe had waited until she arrived to get tickets and so the only seats left were rather high up in the second balcony leaving the teams to appear no bigger than insects on the green diamond below. However that mattered not one whit to Dottie because those seats put her on eye level with what appeared to her to be the world’s largest television set. She heard the man to her left refer to it as the JumboTron and, while her eyes were roaming its surface, it suddenly burst forth with a flash of video fireworks. Dottie jerked back as though pulled by a rope but her eyes never left the magic screen and she was amazed to see the gigantic head of a man fill the screen as his disembodied voice, booming and echoing throughout the arena, intoned everyone to, “Please stand for the National Anthem…” Had she looked down below she would have seen an ordinary man, partly hidden by a plywood partition, speaking in front of a video camera on a black tripod. But there was no way she could tear her eyes from the deified, massive talking head before her. She had never seen anything remotely like it, even in her dreams.
They feasted on hot dogs and sodas, the other team won by a large margin and then they filed out with the thousands of disenchanted fans into the night.
The next day was Sunday and the three of them traveled up to the University District to attend a sprawling Street Faire. There were jugglers, fire-eaters, falafels, kites, kids, maidens, mugs and musicians. They struggled to keep together in the undulating throng but, inevitably, Dottie lost track of the others and was forced to move along, flotsam on the tide of humanity, until she squeezed herself out of the crowd into a shadowy alcove between two old brick buildings. She turned her back on the wall of flesh and was startled to find herself face to face with a giant of a man with uncombed black hair and piercing hazel eyes. Dressed all in voluminous black silks he played an antique hurdy-gurdy while his companion, a small monkey with a tin cup, hopped from person to person soliciting tips. The music was hypnotic and Dottie’s eyes followed the monkey’s every move. It sported a small, tasseled, maroon fez perched jauntily on its head and wore a heavily brocaded jacket with a stiff collar that stood up so high it almost seemed like a pair of leathery wings rising from its back. Mesmerized, she stood rooted to the spot willing her fear to ebb into fascination.
Eventually she was reunited with her kin and, although they lingered late into the day, nothing filled her thoughts save those moments before the gypsy scoundrel and his simian assistant.
She stayed for nine days, saw much, understood little and then caught the flight home to the
As she grew older she often thought that it had been the storm raging around that departing flight which had given her the impetus to make good her one escape and, although she never spoke of it to a soul, in later years she would drive to the abandoned family farmhouse in the fiercest storms and, sitting in a broken down old kitchen chair, she would cling to the edges of the seat with both hands, clench her teeth, screw her eyes tightly shut and beg the wind gods to spirit her away once more.
Levering herself up off the couch she poured the cold dregs from her cup, slipped on a well worn coat and went off to day thirteen thousand seven hundred and sixty two of her career at the library. She spent the day being helpful and friendly, punched out at and shuffled home on auto-pilot to a microwave dinner and two hours of solitude in a hot bath. She made the rounds of the house making sure all the lights were off, slid her ragged red slippers under the bed, crawled under the covers and drifted off dreaming of the surprisingly gentle caress of a tin hand on her shoulder.