“Maybe I didn’t love you quite exactly as I should have…” Steve’s favorite CD played as the three Porters headed south down Interstate Five. Aggie had her little pink sunglasses on, looking cool, singing along. By the time they reached the border, the Willie CD had played almost nine times and Aggie had taught Poo to meow along with the chorus, “You were always on my mind. You were always on my mind…” Poo was pretty good. It cracked Steve and Rhea up.
Sprawled lazily around a the Port of Ensenada, the low-rise city neither welcomed nor refused anyone. Steve drove familiar streets into the outskirts of the business district and parked in front of Renaldo’s party supply store… pinatas, plastic wreaths, ornaments and a hundred dolls hung from strings across the open front. The three Porters went in. Poo stayed in the car.
Inside, the wonderland was crammed wall to wall, ceiling to floor with stuff. Boxes and boxes, shelves and shelves of stuff. Dozens of birdcages hung from ceiling fans, door knobs, ladders, water pipes, light fixtures and the branches of a big dead tree stuck in a giant pot in the middle of the room. Each birdcage had one or two or three blue parakeets in it. Sometimes a feather would fall from their cages to the floor.
Rhea went straight for the costume jewelry: bangle bracelets crusted with plastic jewels, giant glass rings and brooches and chokers sporting dragonflies and bees. Steve and Renaldo searched the store for every baby Jesus night light they could find. Aggie stood in the middle of it all, saddened by the birds. They were always quiet; not a peep, not a song. Surely unhappy to be caged inside a party store.
One of the cages hung low on a dead tree branch, about eye level with Aggie. The bird was watching her as it plucked one of its feathers and pushed it between the wire bars so it fluttered to the floor. Aggie picked it up. She looked at the bird; it looked back at her, like they were talking. After a while, Aggie unlatched the bird’s cage door. It nodded at her as it slipped out. But it didn’t fly away. It hopped over to its nearest friends, two parakeets in a cage that was hanging from a coat hook. With its beak it unlatched that cage door and the two birds hopped out. They split up and fluttered over to three other cages, one was sitting on the counter where Rhea was trying on a pair of Freida Kahlo earrings. It caught her eye. She turned and saw Aggie, holding the little blue feather. Rhea figured it out in a flash and hurried over to her.
“What are you doing?!”
As the birds stealthily continued their prison break and Steve and Renaldo remained preoccupied, Rhea called out to Steve.
“We’re hungry, Dad. OK if we go over to Joe’s?”
“Yeah, OK. I’ll be there as soon as Renaldo packs all this up. Order me something.”
“Watch your sister.”
Rhea took Aggie’s hand and felt something in it; she was still holding the blue feather. She had an orangeade soda in her other hand. Rhea took the feather and tucked it into Aggie’s pocket.
“C’mon. Let’s fly.” she smiled as she pulled Aggie out of there.