Traffic continued even though Magda Silvano had casually stepped up to the curb, in the icy blue rain, and dropped her baby in a little pink basket into the street. Ollie Oleskie and I had been sitting under the awning of old Mr. Petrach's tobacco shop; we watched the street swell up from all the rain. Small plastic milk bottles, empty beer cans, fall leaves, and bright-colored candy wrappers swirled in the water and made their way to our neighborhood.
Floating past us, like little rafts in the raging whitewaters, we tracked a couple of those little paper food boats. Somehow, watching them drift away reminded me of Thor Heyerdahl's Kontiki, a strange recollection, considering I had copied most of my report on the book from Sally Olsen and knew little about the story. Clarkie, the troll-like hotdog wagon man sold his greasy hotdogs in those little paper boats. City people didn't like to put the works on a hotdog and let it drip all over them, so he raised the price of his dogs to cover the price of the white paper trays. He and his slobbering bulldog, Ralph, had been part of the neighborhood scenery around here for decades.
I dodged the cars and waded through the deep water in the street, chasing Madga's baby. The basket had become snagged near the storm drain. I pulled it out--the baby seemed so light in my hands. I had heard Magda's boyfriend wouldn't marry her and wanted no part of fatherhood. Perhaps Magda believed she had saved her baby from the cruel fate of the world by letting it float out to sea in a basket, just like in the Bible story of baby Moses. The bundle cradled safely in my arms, I ran inside Madsen's liquor store. I carefully unwrapped the pink blanket on the counter and saw a pink plastic doll with big glassy eyes that didn't blink.
Magda stood in the rain, her hair like soggy seaweed, until her mother took her by the hand and pulled her back inside.