It was cold for the middle of August.
Goat came in from the yard, shivering, almost running to his desk. He bent down and pulled a thick stack of folded sheets of paper from the dresser’s bottom drawer. The heartsick, love letters he never could give to who knew how many girls and women.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, he smoothed them out and then folded them again, this time as paper airplanes.
Later than night, he drank too many beer, tossing the planes across the yard, watching them glide and land in the flames of the fire he’d built.
Either the neighbours above him went hoarse from screaming and both lost their voices, or one killed the other and was now stunned silent or maybe they’d escaped.
Dzinski didn’t care which. They’d kept him awake all night, and he figured he could still catch a couple of hours, if he went to sleep right now.
Someone knocked at his door. He burrowed under a thin pilllow. The knocker insisted. Dzinski got up, tied his ratty bathrobe and opened the door to see the building manager looking for his rent.
The neighbours walked downstairs, huddled up close together, and smiling..
We know what you mean. How hard it can be sometimes.
No, we have no idea what he’s up to. We haven’t seen him, have we honey?
Should I make more coffee? Or are you ready for a drink? It’s so nice out, we could sit in the backyard and drink beer. I don’t think there are many bees. Wasps neither. Really.
Fine, we’ll just stay inside. It really is lovely out, though. How about we take a little walk? There a new ice cream place down the street, it’s supposed to be good. Homemade.
We’d love to try it.
After a dinner of a stale roll and brown apple, the vagrant stood up to empty his pockets. He made a neat little pile beside his bedroll of his failures, doubts, fears and words unsaid. He stretched, hands on hips, leaning backwards, staring straight up at the twinkling stars, then crawled, fully clothed under the threadbare blanket, and fell asleep, curled around the fire, and unburdened.
The next morning, after breaking camp, he set off, stoop-shouldered and wincing. Walking slowly down the road, taut, tensed, he wondered when he might find somewhere to set his baggage down, but for good.
Prompt courtesy of the Daily Post
I hope this is the right number. I saw the poster, about your lost cat. But I didn`t have a pen, and when I went back, someone had pulled it down. I think this must be you. I usually have a pretty good memory for numbers.
Faces not so much.
Anyway, I think I saw your cat. At least it looked like your cat. Black with a white patch on the stomach right? She was at the intersection of the two alleys, behind the corner store, you know where I mean?
I tried calling it, but it ran away.
Lamb’s boyfriend climbed back into the front seat.
“Turn the light on,” she said, while he fiddled with the radio. She kicked the back of his chair and he turned around, telling her to watch the leather. She repeated herself. Once the overhead light came on, she found her underwear and pulled them up. Then she slid out, walked around the car, wide legged, a little sore, something wet on her thigh, and sat on the hood.
Her boyfriend honked, but she ignored him.
She closed one eye, and moved her cigarette against the sky, pretending it was a comet.
Somewhere in the trees outside the cabin, an owl called out.
“Who cooks, who cooks for you?” it said.
No one, she wanted to say. No one. She’d been out at her grandfather’s cabin for two weeks. One more before her aunt and uncle arrived for their turn.
“Remember to change the sheets,” her aunt said when she called the day before. “Your uncle’s allergic to dogs.”
She’d slept on the couch, the stairs were too steep for her old dog to climb. Maybe she’d go into town tonight, see if the tavern still played the same old country songs.
They each swung their axes, blades biting the other’s bark, landing with dull thuds. They grimaced, winced, ignored the blows that hurt most and kept at it. One of them was to fall here, and both knew it, wanted it. Figured with the other felled, there’d be more sunlight, they’d be able to spread their branches up and out, to bloom.
They stood panting, the kitchen floor covered with chips and dust, unable to lift their axes. Bent over, leaning, they fought to catch their breath, certain one more next blow and the other would all, and they’d be free.
The chimes jangled and the door closed, sucking all the air from in the diner outside. Al blinked, then tossed the cast iron pan he found himself, stupidly, still holding. Trying to get up sat him down again, his hand coming away from his side bloody.
He wadded up his apron and crawled out from the kitchen to behind the counter.
Freddy’s empty eyes caught his.
“You dumb bastard,” Al said, sliding over and taking the front man’s head in his lap. “Getting yourself killed over a lousy thirty bucks.”
He coughed and winced and couldn’t find his goddamn cigarettes.
She took off her shoes and walked along the bank, water, mud and grass between her toes, imaging someone was playing a piano just upriver, the music coming down toward her like hundreds of little folded paper sailboats.
She went out deeper, until the water reached the hem of the dress bunched up above her knees. The river urged her along, fell in love, hoped she’d stay forever, but understood she couldn’t. A cardinal landed beside her, as she lay in the grass, drying. It hopped along twice, and took flight.
A good wind for travel came from the east.