Marta was vacuuming the living room rug, sucking up dog hair, when her heels left the floor, four or five inches. The sensation took her breath away. She could have easily laughed the moment off as mere fantasy, but Skippy, the family terrier, was prancing wildly, snapping at her elevated soles.
“Down, boy,” Marta said. Head cocked, the dog assumed a sitting position. Strange. Skippy was routinely obstinate, rarely following commands.
The moment was over as quickly as it began. Marta’s heels returned to the Berber carpet, and Skippy barked and ran in maddening circles.
Marta was disappointed: the moment had been far too short. As a girl, she had dreamed of flying, spreading her arms and taking to the air. All things were possible in childhood, but that was ages ago.
Her disappointment in the moment lingered. Then she brightened. If the levitation had happened once, it might happen again. Several days later, Marta was fixing Karl’s dinner, on Meatloaf Tuesday. She was prepared for the normal round of complaints: the meat was too dry, the gravy thick and lumpy, the corn overdone. But shortly after plating the meal, she sensed a fluttering in her chest, and then a delightful weightlessness. She was higher off the floor this time, nearly a foot, so high she needed to bend over to serve the meal. Though Skippy yapped crazily, so much so that Karl swatted the animal’s snout with the newspaper, Karl never mentioned Marta’s peculiar hover. Even more amazing, he smiled. Once she settled to the floor, his good humor continued.
“You’ve outdone yourself, dear.” He pulled out her chair then kissed her cheek.
That night Marta concluded the height of the levitation somehow determined the duration and extent of the change it wrought.
Next time could be extraordinary!
Marta waited. A week went by, then another. She peered at her feet, trying to will them into action. Nothing. Frustrated, she pushed the idea aside until the week before Easter Sunday. While cleaning an upstairs window, she wondered if Karl had planned anything special for the holiday. A relaxing dinner at Panera’s Paradise. Or a movie, perhaps, the one about Amelia Earhart, a story of how the woman had skimmed the clouds, touched the stars, then given herself to the sky.
Marta leaned out the window to retrieve the screen she’d set on the roof but couldn’t reach it. Stretching further, she sensed a warm stirring in the belly, then a dull ache in her shoulder blades.
It was happening again.
Only this time, she drifted out the window, over the rooftop and the very house itself. Beneath her, the Sanderson children rollerbladed with smooth, rhythmic strokes, Oren Shedaker tended his cherished rose plants, and a swarm of people milled about St. Stephan’s Church.
She was tempted to shout down to neighbors and strolling couples but hesitated for fear of alarming people, spoiling a perfectly normal Sunday afternoon. To her surprise, Oren looked up. He removed his straw hat. He shielded his eyes from the glare, and then nodded. Though she couldn’t see the old man’s eyes, she felt the sting of recognition, a tearful acquiescence, as if Oren saw something no one else could see.
She did not have time for sadness or anxiety. She did not have time for good-byes. Though Skippy yipped somewhere in the near-far distance, Marta lifted her eyes and gazed on the bluest, clearest of skies. For a moment, she recalled her giddy girlhood when anything, everything was possible. She threw her arms open then gave herself over to the memory, the exquisite beauty of a single thought.
Author’s note: ’Rising Expectations’ is a bit of fancy and dream, a death-wish honored on a wing and a prayer.