Daisy Valentine pressed her finger into the last crumbs on her plate left from a cheddar cranberry scone. She licked her finger and finished editing a photo of onion rings she’d taken for a local burger joint’s window poster. She topped up her iced coffee, grabbed her ever-ready Pentax and took it and the coffee out onto her back patio. She slipped her legs over the low wall and let her bare feet dangle as she scanned the dark forest below. She played a little Nick Cave on her Moto phone and Moonlight Mile by the Stones: “Oh I am sleeping under strange strange skies…” She got up, stretched, stood on the wall. As she looked to her left, out over the distant downtown LA, she saw a tiny, familiar puff of light shimmer up toward the sky. She knew people died all over LA every day. If you looked really hard you could see the souls rise, even in the bright height of daylight. Some only rose an inch before dissolving. Some rose all the way into the sky and were gone – absorbed into heaven. And a very few drifted back down. Daisy didn’t document most of them – they were too far in the distance or it was too light to record them on film. But this one, she could tell, was a little girl. In a moment, it, too was gone. But she felt compelled to go to it – compelled to see if it would float back down.
“Hey Ralphie–!” she called into the brush below. A minute later, an old coyote came out of the dark and onto her patio. “Watch the place, OK? There’s food in the fridge if you’re hungry.”
Ralphie lay down by her open back door. She grabbed her car keys, got in her Jeep, rested her camera in her lap and drove down the hill. As the Hollywood sign receded behind her, she passed the Village market and drove down Beachwood Drive, to the streetlight at Franklin. When it turned green, she turned left, drove to Hillhurst and took that to Sunset. Fifteen minutes later she crossed the Chavez bridge and parked a block down, in front of an old Boyle Heights church. Painted on the front, a mural of God giving an angel the city of Los Angeles on a platter made her laugh. She looked around to get her bearings then walked back across the bridge. She wandered across the top of the cement bank of the LA river. She sat on a railroad track that ran near it. She faced toward Domingos and waited. She never saw a soul. But about ten minutes after ten, a woman who smelled like taquitos and a teenage girl walked by. She faded back, into the debris by the tracks, nearly disappearing. It was a good trick and she used it often. She didn’t mind people, really – she liked most of them. They were weird and funny and interesting. but she always had to walk away before they asked too many questions.