Bird chatter roused her from a midday catnap. Ellie sat up and stretched for the mesquite cane propped against the sun-warmed couch.
She limped down the steps and shuffled over southwestern desert pebbles to the coop where Sambo, sometimes watchdog and full-time friend, waited with wagging tail. Ellie scratched his head while looking for danger but saw only the birds’ restlessness.
‘Soon,’ she crooned. ‘Very soon.’
The following Saturday, she placed the birds in wire cages attached to the rusty pickup bed and left home in the gray dawn. Scattered towns on narrow strings of lonely asphalt made it easy to travel long distances to find an untapped market for her precious birds and in a few hours Ellie arrived at Ciudad de Sueños where outdoor stalls awaited vendors.
Ellie backed the truck in beside the assigned space and a tall teenager, skinny as a zipper and tattooed with a thousand pictures, wordlessly helped her place the crates for display. Ellie plumped her 69-year-old body into the sagging seat of a faded green folding chair and pushed strong freckled fingers through her short gray hair. She looked around, saw there’d be plenty of business and smiled broadly enough to expose the darkness left by a missing canine tooth.
The taciturn kid came back at dusk to help place the empty crates in the pickup bed. Ellie laboriously climbed behind the steering wheel and patted the large wad of bills pocketed in her polyester trousers.
Sambo swirled with happiness when Ellie reappeared. ‘Oh, Sambo! It was a great success! I wish you could have been there. Let me rest a bit ~ our lovely pigeons will soon return home.’