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Archive for April, 2011

Note: This story was inspired by “Canaries” [1924], though does not do justice to it!

Once again dawn slashed the window. Still awake and wired from another night of indolent frustration, he lay on the couch staring at the birdcage. It sat on the sill, its shadows crossed the floor like prison bars. Daylight illuminates all too much. Sharp relief leaves scars.

The clear royal blue sky taunted him as he surveyed the mess of papers and laundry littering the floor. Disarray was not why she had left. The blood on the floor did that. He was no longer sure whose stains each one was. Mostly his, he thought though she’d probably disagree. Memories tend to martryize.

The sound of the canaries’ song surged over the street noise. The pitiful treble irritated him and he rose to turn on the radio. He switched on a political show he never agreed with. This only served as encouraging accompaniment for the birds. Their shrilling grew more intense. A visceral cry to welcome the tyrannical sunlight.

Standing in the trash that carpeted the floor, he followed a trail of scattered rice. He picked up the crushed Chinese takeaway bag, remembering they had included two sets of chopsticks. One used, snapped in twain. One still sheathed in red paper wishing the diner good fortune. He took out the new set and pulled them apart with both hands. Only the left side broke off, leaving the end of both sticks on the right one. This he threw on the floor and studied the splinted one that remained. Made a fist around the jagged hashi and crossed back to the cage.

The canaries were her idea.  Said they were lovebirds, assembled at random by a shopkeeper only to become a couple in the confines of their imprisonment. He supposed her sentiment referred to them as well.  They never sang together though.

He clutched the bars of the bird cage in his right. The squawking amplified. The sun sat high now. The radio cursed. The utensil poked through the bars. The stabbing began. Yellow feathers spirited up into the morning air.  When it was over, he switched off the radio and lay down in silence. Wept himself to sleep.

He had wings in the dream. Scratchy, useless wings that beat hard against his back every time he tried to fly. He could rise a few feet but never take off. He leapt from one ledge to the next, curling jagged toes to gain purchase before teetering back to the ground. When he struck down, he cried out in pain. No sound came.

It was dusk when he awoke. He opened the cage and took out the dead canaries. The empty Chinese containers worked a casket. He buried them next to her.


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Hey MJ,

Thanks for speaking with me at length last night. Below is the story I described. It is about 90% based in real events. I wonder if Lily would like or understand the tale, as it is an easy, simple narrative that should appeal to her. I suppose there is a reference to “making love” however, should that be inappropriate for readers her age. It pleases me to think of you and she reading my stuff. Where are my glamorous shot BTW?

Lost in the Snow

New York felt restless in the winter of 2001. At least we did. After the autumn’s anguish, the snows came – cascading innocence upon the raped metropolis.  We lived on Convent Avenue at the time, and spent the past two months watching the news and the most intense World Series in recent memory. After the Yankees lost game seven, my fiancé felt even more deflated. Disconsolation reigned while the days faded to gray.

That Saturday morning had no dawn. It was late December, and I woke up many hours before Sarah. The night blended from black to a light brown, as the Canadian front softly descended its crystal payload upon the vacant streets.  I basked in the solitude of our kitchen, typing miserable poetry while she stirred in and out of sleep in the bedroom. By the time she fully awoke, I had made plans for the day. I intended to see my teammate Brian and have a snowball fight in the park. Seemed like a reasonable diversion from thinking about how things had disintegrated for me at work and home. This inclination would come to resemble sentimentality in hindsight. The scars continue to bear witness.

“What are we doing today?” Sarah mumbled over her second cup of coffee. I stared at her blankly. Two years in the city and she had not made a single friend, always tagging along with me when I saw mine and criticizing their vacuity later when we were in private. I suppose it was better than her complaining to their faces. Still whenever the phone rang, it was always for me. A point, breeding resentment in both of our hearts. When passions fade tedium abounds.

“I was going to play catch in the park with Brian.” I offered in a similar tone. She knew she would expect inclusion, so I did not extend an invitation.

“It’s snowing, you know?” She muttered glancing out the window’s murky light. I refused to avail a response, appreciating this would not dissuade her from coming. The dance was a familiar one, even if the tune was new. Baseball in the snow had a certain novelty to it anyway.

We met Brian in front of his building and crossed to the park. The snow continued to drift in the implacable rhythm of a Saturday afternoon. It was the fifth snow that year already. It gathered resentfully along the shoveled paths. Dared us to stumble into its territory.

Brian poured ice down my back and it was on. We hurled snowballs at each other to warm up and then broke out our mitts. Sliding on her glove, Sarah handed me the engagement ring I had bought her in Chinatown a year earlier. I slid it into a side pocket of my new jacket and threw the coat on a packed drift. Sweating already, there was no need to encumber myself as the hard tossing began. The cold weather and the wet leather made the ball hard to grip. The intensity of our hurling grew forced. Much like the activity itself.

Tourists stopped and stared at our peculiar scene. Who plays baseball in the snow in December? This only served to power our dedication. At that time, it was a pathetic expression that all was well in the ravaged city. We refused to let anyone suggest we were anything but free. This translated into even morhe stitching opened up a nice scratch on his right cheek. We had been throwing with abandon. It seemed to dictate all of our choices e ardent whipping across the unkempt mounds of snow. I wound up and caught Brian full in the face. His reflexes were always suspect. Tat that time.

As his blood dripped on the snow, we decided to call it quits. The whole affair, now seems so labored, but at the time we needed to recall the fine summer that came before September’s catastrophe. Brian put the gloves away and we assembled our coats and hats. Walking to the coffee shop, Sarah asked for her ring back. I sought it out in the side pocket, only to discover in my new coat the “pocket” was actually a vent. I had just purchased the jacket and did not understand it subtleties as yet. Such callowness undoes all ardency.

When I confessed my error, Sarah shrieked. We ran back to the park. It proved a fool’s errand, though we spent an hour sifting through the snow looking for the half-carat set in a platinum band. Unsuccessful, I expected a fight later. This was not to be. Sarah, to her credit, only wept under my arm as we rode back uptown. We unlocked the door in the early twilight. She went back to read in the bedroom and I returned to my typing. I came into to remind her it was only an object and not significant of the connection between us. She seemed consoled somewhat by this. I think we made love that night, but I am not certain. I know she married Brian four years later. By then I was in Japan and could not attend. Somewhere, a different ring coruscates on her delicate finger. And somewhere else, the fallen ring sparkles just a little less than when she wore it. I like to think so.

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