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A Day Ruined

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A Day Ruined

He walked out of the Post Office with his head down, yanked the car door open, and slammed it once seated.

She did not turn on the car. She said, "What's wrong?"

"I bought this." He showed her a strip of stamps,  with small pics of animals and a big label at the bottom: pets.

"Pets," he read with disgust. "They have a hermit crab here. They live in huge colonies. They are not supposed to live alone in aquariums."

She nodded.

He was breathing loudly. He put his right hand on the door handle, as if he might open it up again, but he left his fingers hanging in the crook.

"And a parrot." He pointed to the blue and yellow Macaw. "Shitbrains buy those, trying to be cool, and they don't realize these birds live forever, they bond with their owners, and when these assholes dump their birds, they pluck out their feathers because they're so freaked out."

She knew all this but continued to nod. She noticed a chinchilla at the top of the strip and took in a deep breath. She took her hands off the steering wheel.

He said, "We have horses starving to death, people can't afford the hay to feed them, and they put one on a stamp as a pet." He spat that last word. "I don't know how the Post Office, the government, could promote this..." He stared out the car window, eyes weighted with contempt, where people were entering, exiting the Post Office, oblivious to his glower. She had seen this expression before, many times, and she thought she could see a sliver of envy mixed in his mien, something she would be able to see only after multiple exposures.

He struggled to speak, "People are going to... they are going to see this and not think... they'll think it's okay to buy these animals..."

She hesitated, then asked, "Why did you buy the stamps...?"

"I didn't know," he said quickly. "I saw the dog and cat, in a poster, like the shelter animals they did a few years ago." The pets sheet had an iconic golden retriever and stately Maine coon, surrounded by parakeets, gerbils, and geckos... "I thought this one would be okay..." He tilted his head down, brought up his hands to rub his eyes. His voice echoed in his palms when he said, "I'm tired."

"I know," she said. She did not touch him. She sat still and waited, and as she waited, she watched the people glide past the car windows, a fleeting proximity that hung heavy in the car, and a profound sadness washed over her and weighed down her head, her hair, her eyelids, and she could feel the car sinking down into the moistened pavement, and the distance between them and the people in the anonymous outside increased, except they were the ones sliding further away.

"I know," she said again. She shook her head, then started the car, reversed out of the parking space, and drove out of the lot.