We all saw them. They slowly floated up into the air and disappeared into the grey cloud quilt that drooped low in the sky.
That man in the middle of the cul-de-sac went up in the morning. He had been out on his patio, reading the morning paper. When he reached for the coffee cup that didn’t go up with him, his curved finger hooked empty air. The heavy sky wrapped around him, and he was gone.
That lady in the one-bedroom house went up after lunch. She had been on a ladder cleaning out her gutters. As she ascended, she plucked off her work gloves, let them drop. Later, we found them in the top of the hedge beside her front door, fingers still laced with damp pine needles.
That scruffy brown dog went up in the afternoon. He drifted out past the McNulty’s pool, looking out and sniffing at the breeze as he dissolved into the clouds.
Someone else vanished just after dinnertime. We couldn’t see enough details, only the soles of the shoes. We never knew who it was.
The clouds hung around for several days. According to the Weather Channel, they were held in place by a stalled high-pressure system. The meteorologists mentioned that the system was remarkably slow and stubborn, though apparently it wasn’t remarkable enough to send out any cameras or crew. No angry sheets of rain, no flailing street signs, no upturned cars. Nothing exciting to show the TV audience. Still, we know what we saw.
Some people stood at their windows for hours, staring up into the sky and waiting, hoping they would see the next one go. Other people stood out in the open, hoping they would go next.
The people who went weren’t anything special. They kept to themselves, so we didn’t know much about them. They never went to the country club or the PTA. None of them attended our church. They were the sort of people no one noticed.
We didn’t know what the man from the cul-de-sac did. He must have worked from home, because he always seemed to be there. Most mornings, he sat out on his patio. On sunny Sundays, he washed his car in the driveway while listening to jazz. When we came back from church, we would see him outside, his hose looping across the wet pavement, his unruly music traipsing around in the wrong directions.
We thought the lady in the one-bedroom house was retired, but we weren’t sure. She spent a lot of time with her roses and she hummed constantly. There was always white plastic furniture on her porch, the sort they have at municipal pools. Her clothes looked faded and used—she never wore a nice dress or a pair of heels. We knew her last name. Herndon. Our neighborhood covenant requires everyone to print it in block letters on their mailbox. The man in the cul-de-sac never got around to putting his up, though we pressed several warning letters into the frame of his door.
We think the dog must have snuck through the gate when an authorized resident drove in. No collar. No tags. We never fed him or tried to play with him. We were afraid he might stay. We don’t want stray animals just roaming around willy-nilly. They make messes and are hazards. We chased him away from our trash cans by throwing rocks at him, though we never actually tried to hit him.
None of the people who left ever returned. When the clouds finally cleared, everything in our community went back to normal.