by David Antrobus
Here, where the forest unfurls like a rug almost to the rose-gold beach, is where it all started. Where the eagle cries amid cobalt thermals like something abandoned. Forgone yet freed.
“You’re a warrior. But are you my warrior?”
The sky crackles like a death-throe radio. Old limbs dislocate at the first hesitant storm. Something in the trees aches to emerge. Don’t let it. Please don’t fucking let it.
Caffeine is masculine; tannin feminine. The latter leaves less residue, less darkness on the tongue, is cleaner.
I am a man, so I wake and make coffee, and Annalise smiles at me, still partway gripped by her dreamworld.
“I’m glad you came back,” she says.
Rather than answer I take great pelican gulps of my coffee though it’s too hot and I know my tongue will pain me for days.
Birdland is our purgatory.
Neglect the equivalent of abuse. Indifference as keen a weapon as hate.
Please don’t tell me about your dream, I think.
Against the window a ruby-throated hummingbird flits its quantum dance. There. Not there. Vertical. Tiny needle aloft. There again. Not there. Someplace else in an instant. The only clue to its trickery the vague blur at its shimmering sides. If this is the Matrix, hummingbirds are its emissaries.
Once looked at, a bird; unseen, some other thing.
“We should hang more nectar.”
I can’t recall later which of us said that. Since kindness was its source, I like to think it was me, but I’m likely wrong in my usual random way. I don’t know about yours, but in my universe God indeed plays dice.
Someone knocks at our door, and I’m startled out of something beyond the mere moment; it’s as if I’m flipped from one dark tale into another, if not darker then less knowable.
A tight voice from outside, a sexless shadow beyond the sheer curtain and frosted glass. “I know you’re home.”
Unbreathing, we out-wait the interloper, and after a while I go out back and drowned in the bloody dripping yolk of a sunset kick a deflated soccer ball against the darkening house, over and over, again and again, volleys and half-volleys, inside of the foot unswerving passes, outside skewed bananas, until I’m filled with hubris and start to juggle it unselfconsciously, a possessed marionette, soon surpassing my own record of fifty and finally overdoing it around seventy-five and dropping it in the talcum-fine dirt at eighty-one. Incensed I didn’t make a hundred. While the cowl of night drapes all, scowling, indifferent.
“Come inside. I made dinner,” she calls. “The eagle has left.”
This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not like this. The hummingbirds are absent, and I go inside to eat.
Her tender care is like a razor, and I am her strop.
“The neighbours have gone, I think,” Annalise says over dinner. She has made a perfect pho with nut-rich fungus and something dark as green can be.
“I only want to eat,” I say ungratefully, and think for a moment I might be a bad man.
“Then eat,” she says.
Silence should follow, but it doesn’t. Slurping and sighing follow.
Then, as if on cue, breaking news on CNN violates our intimacy to inform us of possible terror attacks in a scattering of cities. Confusion and mayhem, panicked crowds, global howls.
We look across a clean marble surface into each other’s eyes. I think I reach for her hands first, but it honestly doesn’t matter.
Fingers knitted, we talk. About what we’d ask for if granted three wishes (I insist we should ask for infinite wishes; she thinks that’s finagling). About the long chalk ghostlike faces near Dover, England. About the skeletal grip of someone dying. About the faultless imploring eyes of children fighting cancer. About this amazing thing: do we love our pets in ways we don’t love each other? Is that question even framed right? How honest can we be? Do we privilege our antic species at every juncture? Even when we’re genociding? Is MAGAlomaniac a word? If not, should it be? Can dreams come literally true? Even if they feature Nazi dryads giving blissful head to supine unicorns? Even if they narrate our appalling triumphs? Even if they highlight our equally shabby fiascos?
What gears have slipped so badly in the machinery of the world that all this is the upshot?
I say to her, “We should head inland.”
“I’ll go pack some stuff,” she says. Her brimful ass, swaying as she climbs the staircase, is the best thing I’ve ever seen.
While I wait, a shadow returns and looms at the door. It hefts something heavy in its hand. It weighs at least fifty hummingbirds, probably more, and part of me knows we almost made it.
(The thing in the trees parts the curtains. It’s like unspeakable sex.)
And almost is another word for heartbreak.
© Copyright by David Antrobus at The Migrant Type.
About the author:
David Antrobus is a freelance writer and editor whose origins lie in northern England and who currently lives in the Vancouver area. As if in tribute to the abused and neglected children he spent two decades working with, his writing in all its forms bristles with outrage, sorrow, dark humour, and resilience.
As a writer, David is far from prolific, which he justifies by assuring anyone who cares to listen that he much prefers quality over quantity. The fact that he has one perfect daughter lends support to this approach. However, his steady intake of wine, caffeine, and deeply questionable movies just as easily undermines it.
As an editor, he created Be Write There in 2009, a one-stop service that provides proofreading, copyediting, substantive editing, developmental editing, and manuscript evaluation.
He has published two books, both nonfiction, and has written numerous dark yet lyrical tales scattered among various anthologies and websites.