To clip a bird’s wings for the sake of keeping them in a cage was thought by Nigel to be a barbaric act. Yet here he is was in the hoarded home of a serial wing clipper. It smelled of woodchips and birdseed. The kind of familiar pet store smell, that makes the nose want to stop working, stop smelling. It halts the olfactory senses and begs the body to go outside and get some fresh air. The warm air hung in the room, filled with incessant tweeting and the vibration of little bird feet clinging from bar to bar of their cage. The rustle of the feathers, shaking them open and loose. Multiplied by at least 27 birds, the sound was deafening. Nigel would have to free them all. The man in question was not home, which frankly made it all the easier. Limping over to the first cage, he found the latch and laid his hand on it. But where would the birds go once they’d be freed? He had to open a window, a door – both. Dragging his left foot slightly behind his right, he made is way over to where he had entered, taking a nearby stack of books and propping the door open. Once secure, he made his humble way across the room, but struggled opening the window. It felt like it hadn’t been opened in years. Quite stuck. Nigel closed his eyes and pushed upwards with all his might, straining. He budged. Just enough where there was a crack. Suddenly, he heard a car door slam. His heart jumped into his throat, blood pulsed in his ears. Was he home so soon? Nigel tried to talk himself down. It could just be a neighbor. The reverberation of the street isn’t always accurate as to where the sound is coming from; It could have been the next street over. Nigel’s hands started to sweat. He could feel each individual bead form in pinpricks on his palm. He would have to start releasing the birds, hoping they’d find the front door, and deal with the window later. He took the nearest cage and opened it. “Come on, little fella. Don’t you want to be free?” The yellow and green parakeet looked at him with beady eyes and lightly chirped to him.
“Nigel, what you are you doing? These birds can’t fly.”
The steak hits the pan with a loud sizzle. It’s ongoing, the sound filling the kitchen. Cast iron skillet food network dream. Butter rapidly melts and is spooned over. Seasoned with herbs with expert hands. Mashed potatoes are generously dolloped on pristine white plates. As the diner takes his white cloth napkin and delicately unravels it, putting it on his lap. Placing it carefully. Cold fork and knife ready to dive into something delicious. Something that will feed the soul, as well as the stomach. The steak gets flipped. The smell is wonderfully aromatic. Rosemary sprigs garnish the plate. A light black char graces the steak. Cooked more rare than medium, a little more rare than medium rare. The chef wipes a bead of sweat that has slipped from under his tall white hat. He wipes it with back of hand, closer to his thumb. The kitchen is hot and buzzing assembly line. Tantalizing with all it’s potential tastes and smells. A pot of sauce, for a different dish, gets stirred.
Crosshairs drifting over an ever-elusive target. His leather aviator helmet / hat wrapped snug around Joe’s facial perimeter. A little more snug than he would have liked. His eye protectors also secure around both sockets, an elastic strap holding them in place. He tries to keep his breath steady as he ascends clouds and notices a little less oxygen in his cockpit. The plastic windshield feels like I could just fly away at any moment. He feels the vibration of his controls with his hand on the steering shaft. Mouth dry from nerves. Heart pounding. A little more fearful than exciting. Peering down at farmland below, he tried to gauge his location. Enemy territory for sure. He briefly wonders for a moment if, why anyone would do this for fun. He had a buddy back in Tuscaloosa who loved flying, couldn’t stop talking about it. Joining the Air Force wasn’t Joe’s choice. It was his father’s. And wanting to honor the man who gave him life and livelihood, Joe didn’t know how to turn him down. Despite not wanting it, he tried his best to get it. The Colonels were impressed at this skill and visual acuity. He wasn’t colorblind and didn’t have flat feet. He didn’t get air-sick. He was in formation, just behind the lead plane. He wanted this war to be over. There was nothing fun about knowing you could die at any minute of any day. He had friends and acquaintances who if they didn’t burn up on impact or get taken prisoner, they fell so fast out of the sky and into the ground below, they made their own graves. All they had to do was cross two sticks and tie them, marking the site. Joe felt on edge, having slept minimally the night before. He had gotten a letter from his wife that his baby son was sick. It tore him apart to read that.
Grey dust settles from spewed volcano all over town. Rumbling of angry gods penetrates walls and windows and dismembers shelves. It’s a fine grain. Powder, really. A strange dry, lifeblood. To dip your finger in it doesn’t seem real. Proof that our physical beings bear no weight, our bodies are temporary solutions to the concept of physical existence. Volcano, Pompeii, maddening. Hawaii, Montana, Mt. Etna, Sicily. Do we not come from all these places? Mother Nature gives birth and it is hot and ugly and fatal. Fawkes collapsing. Will he be the only one to be born again? Heat consuming just because it’s near. Not even by touch. Oppressive lust. It will burn us all from within. Crisis powder. A mask unintentionally worn when scary things happen. Out of our control, unexpected, beyond a 911 call. Keep walking toward the light. It will all be over soon.
Sneakers and the touch of skin in a heartfelt hug or handshake. So tightly-knit the thread or yarn could never be unraveled unless it was deliberately cut or set on fire. The bonds are mostly weatherproof. Wind just barely cuts through. A quilt of sisterhood, brotherhood, siblinghood. Feel how feet hug the earth one step after another patrolling a piece of land that is ours, owned by mind to renegades. Any other rules are cancelled out and fall short if they aren’t our own. We walk close to share body heat because no one should go cold in winter. No sibling of mine. Pride, warm beating hearts. Incredulous thought at hypothetical betrayal. Who would do that when we don’t have fathers, when we don’t have mothers? The closeness never achieved with family we achieve everyday now. Live and die by it. Isn’t that what family is? If there was no death, no possibility of it, how would anyone take this seriously? The promise of emotional stability is a steady game, even if it lends itself to emotional irrationality. I see a crowd of people I call family, that call me theirs. Hear their unique voices in my head so I may remember all their names. Taste the promise of tomorrow in this honeymoon honeyed head. Where everything is pure and nothing can go wrong. But after death all the blood drains from my face and I am shallow. I fall to my knees on cold grey winter pavement and place my hands on pre-crime scene street. Where the cement has taken payment in blood for our ownership. I mourn the loss. And feel the wetness of the flood spilt, but it does not transfer to my own hands.