An elderly grocery store owner pulled in the parking lot across faded yellow lines on an early misty morning to open the store. His old truck rumbled from an exhaust leak and the mismatched tires were thread worn. He held onto the door and slowly slid out, waiting for his weak legs to take his weight. The wind lifted the ends of his thin silver hair as he closed the door and shuffled slightly hunched over toward the door. His hands shook a little as he slid them in his pockets feeling for the keys. His eyes glanced at something out of place behind the building, both dumpster lids were open. He walked to the dumpsters and looked inside them, the keys softly jingling in his shaking hands. He did not see any illegally dumped trash so he flipped the tops over which banged when they closed. His neighbor was outside by his car and jumped. He looked at the dumpsters and waved to Joe.
“Hey Joe! Is everything alright over there? Something got in your dumpsters last night and woke me up but I didn’t see any headlights over there.”
Joe walked over by the trees separating his parking lot from his neighbor’s house. “Yeah, everything looks alright. There’s no graffiti or extra trash. I’m tired of people throwing TVs and furniture in there, I may have to start locking them.”
“Well good. If they broke the lids let me know and I’ll help you fix it tonight. I got to run to work, see you.”
“Thanks, see you later.” Joe flexed his fingers, they didn’t bend as well as they once did and he was glad his neighbor helped maintain the store. The neighbor waved and disappeared into his car. The gears ground their way into reverse and he backed into the street crunching dried Douglas fir needles on his driveway and left.
Joe shook his head at his neighbor, he seemed he would never learn how to drive a stick. Joe labored to walk back to the store. He inserted the door key and turned the knob. Inside he flipped on a couple dirty light switches and headed towards the office. He looked down the aisles for anything out of place and everything seemed okay.
Inside the office, he pulled a creaky old chair back from a well-worn desk. His legs ached from the walk to the dumpsters. He dropped the keys on the desk and opened the cabinet next to him and pressed the stop button on the old VCR. The tape whined as Joe rewound it to see what happened last night to the dumpsters. When it finished and clicked off, he pressed play and fast-forwarded to when the dumpster lids opened. His face paled seeing what appeared on the tape and hit pause. He pushed crumpled receipts and old order sheets around his desk until he unburied a faded coffee-stained note with a phone number. He picked up the avocado green phone and called as quickly as the rotary dial would let him.
“Hello?” said a voice on the other end.
“Hi Redhawk, this is Joe from the store. Yeah, it’s been a long time. Hey uh, can you come over here right away? I have video of a couple kids getting into my dumpster last night. You need to see who they are.”
“Sorry Joe. Did you have a couple kids from the rez do some damage?”
“No no, the dumpsters are fine. You need to see these kids, they’re not local. Come as soon as you can.”
“Uh, alright. Be right over.”
Joe cradled the phone and stared at the screen. The tension in his shoulders relaxed as he sat back and stared at the grainy image paused on the monitor. “It has been a long time…”
Redhawk arrived a half hour later and knocked on the front door of the store. Joe shuffled slowly over from the office, unlocked the deadbolt and opened the door for Redhawk.
Redhawk gave Joe a firm shake and pat on the shoulder. “Good morning Joe, good to see you again. You got kids coming to town and causing trouble?”
Joe closed the door behind Redhawk and locked it. He smiled weakly, “Something we haven’t seen since the tourists arrived. Follow me.” Joe led Redhawk to the office as fast as his arthritis would let him. Once inside, Joe pointed to the monitor.
Redhawk froze when he saw the screen. He stared at the frozen image of a boy with blue wings and girl with green wings looking in the dumpster. “I don’t believe it, why are they here? Can I borrow the tape? I’ve got to show this to the Council!”
“I thought you would. I’m guessing they were here because they’re hungry. It’s sad to see those kids looking for food in a dumpster, they must not know anything about magic yet. This is the only copy so don’t lose it and don’t let anyone off the reservation see it.” Joe reached over and ejected the tape. He gave it to Redhawk who eagerly took it.
“Thanks Joe. Tonight, would you mind leaving some food for them outside in case they return? Maybe something they can take with them.”
Joe agreed, “No problem Red. I hope they come back.”
“It’s good to see them again, we haven’t had one visit in a long time let alone two. You remember the drill?”
Joe smiled and nodded slowly, “Of course. No one will know from me and I’ll let you know if I hear anything about them in town.”
Redhawk hid the tape under his coat before leaving the store and hopped into his Jeep. His fingers flew across the screen of his cell phone before thrusting it to his ear.
“Good morning Chief Gunaquot, this is Redhawk. You won’t believe who was in town last night. We have feathered visitors again.”
The Chief’s voice through the phone got louder. “Really? This is great! The network has been looking for them. Are they still here?”
Redhawk looked around the parking lot to make sure no one could hear. The soft top of the Jeep didn’t hold in conversations well. “I don’t know where they are right now, but they were going through Joe’s dumpsters last night looking for food. Do you have anyone that can look for them today?”
“Of course, I will send some men out. It’s been a very long time since we’ve had Avians around and it’s a disgrace to see them looking for food in dumpsters. We need to find them before the Bureau does and get them safely in our borders.”
“Agree. They looked okay in the video, just hungry. Find an old VCR at the Council office and I’ll come over to show you Joe’s tape from last night.”
“Joe got video of them? Not good, the network is not going to like that a security camera caught them. That means any other cameras in the area could’ve picked them up too. Check the area for any loose feathers and come right over. If you find any, bring them with you so no-one discovers they were there.”
“Got it. I’ll go check for feathers and be there fast.” Redhawk hung up and started the Jeep. He stomped on the gas and drove back to the dumpsters. He parked and jumped out, leaving the Jeep running behind him. He looked quickly around them and found nothing, then remembered from the video the kids ran back through the trees before disappearing. He went back and searched the trees, checking the ground and the branches. Then, on a branch a few feet off the ground, he caught a glimpse of one long, blue feather. He carefully pulled it free and headed back to the Jeep. The engine raced as he peeled out of the parking lot.