Perfect Eggs

 
“I don’t know anybody who likes hospitals.”

Caitlin from work said this.

Which reminded me…

The white walls. The echoing hallway. The bleach smell and the urine smell hiding just under the bleach smell. That unfiltered light.

Gran wasn’t waiting for us after school like usual. We waited on the porch, not knowing what to do. My sister sat on the stairs with her head in her hands. It seemed like a long time before my dad pulled up by the house, bringing the car to a sudden stop in the driveway, sending Mr. Corn’s husky dog, Panda, into a fit, froth forming at the corners of his black mouth as he choked himself on the short chain that kept him on his side of the driveway, barking his head off.

Then, those walls, that bright, flat light. My dad ushering us through the corridor and my mom standing there, waiting for us. Or maybe she appeared from around the corner. Or from behind the double-push doors.

She pulled the both of us into a hug. She was crying, had been crying, and when she pushed herself away from us she grabbed me by the shoulders with both of her hands.

“Your Gran has a hole in her heart,” she sobbed.

Then, all of us as we waited, sometimes sitting on the floor. My cousin, the oldest of the kids, got up after a long time and went into the closet. He pretended to sob, cried at the top of his squeaking vocal chords, banged and scratched on the door, stomped his overgrown feet and then came out with a smile so full of teeth it was obscene. He stood there and said nothing, bracing himself against the dingy wallpaper, smiling all the time. No one said a thing.

I remember his hanging stomach and him fingering the exposed bellybutton peeking out from just above his sweatpants.

Then, the room, everyone around the bed looking, some crying. And there was Gran with a sheet pulled up to just under her neck. Her eyes were closed.

She was cold.

Then, the eggs.

“Eggs have too much oil,” said my uncle.

“Your Gran ate a lot of eggs. Too much,” said my aunt.

“Eggs are bad for the heart. No more eggs,” said my mom.

Then, for years and years, no eggs. Eggs in other things, for cooking and baking, but not on their own. Never. Eggs were off limits, taboo. Eggs became unmentionable.

Years and years then slowly, with time, they were back again.

Boiled only.

Then, scrambled.

Then fried, sunnyside up.

And finally as another everyday thing, just another option in the fridge, next to the cheese and carrots.

At breakfast the other day, I made soft boiled eggs. It took a few tries, but I finally got the method down perfect.

An inch of water. Boil for one full minute and 15 seconds. Then, perfect eggs.

I carefully peeled back the delicate shell and dug into the softness inside; yolk overfilling my spoon, warm and golden. I was running late but still took the time to make the eggs and eat them without hurry. So good, so good!

So good, I wondered why on earth we hardly ever had eggs growing up.

And then I remembered.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Family, Food

Raccoon/Raccoons

 
A raccoon tried to break through my skylight above my bed last night.

No wait. Let me back up.

It was a hot day in the summer of my childhood.

The Metro Toronto Zoo, a heavy, hazy day by the lion’s den, the lions more lifeless than bored. But I had already turned away from their prone and insensible bodies.

To peer into the contents of the garbage can, tipped toward me for my benefit. Two brilliant eyes stares back, up at me.

“Hey, girl!” the Groundskeeper had said, “want to see these things close up?”

The raccoon was terrified. In to grab a snack, then suddenly caught and on display like every other damn thing.

His arms were braced against the inside of the can.

An arm flashed rigid and grasping against the pane of the skylight, illuminated by the light of the moon. 3:00AM, alone and terrified, I stared up.

Just as the tiny fingers pushed through, digging into the wire mesh beneath, curling up under the frame of the skylight.

But the groundskeeper was a kind-hearted soul, who said to me, “OK. Step away now,” as he tipped the garbage can all the way down, slowly, gently, to the ground.

Beside us the lions stirred, and were still again.

Her babies. The landlord had called the exterminator, and he had taken away her babies from the old broken down chimney. She was here now, looking for them.

Trying to get in.

And nothing!

For long moments, nothing.

Then one tentative hand. Pause, back in the can again.

Then out.

Out, out, out!

An explosion of grey and black and teeth and fur and tail and ring, ring, rings!

An explosion of glass and wire; of wood and rot and rodent fury had I not.

Had I not.

Hit the lights, jumped on the bed with the only thing at hand – a long cardboard tube of old Christmas wrap – and thrust it into the skylight, the heavens, the mother raccoon.

Those clever little raccoon hands.

The trapped raccoon, mad for his freedom, scattered gravel and garbage in his wake as he ran blindly from his little prison and jumped up, hitting the fence, climbing hand over hand.

Straight into the lions’ den.

Trying to get out.

And I remembered.

I remembered the lion coming to life. I remember her flat then lithe and ready and liquid and pouncing onto the raccoon, with grace, with ease, front claws out then in, embedded deeply into raccoon flesh and then the lion breaking the raccoon’s neck with audible “pop” and then devouring the raccoon in great gulps as the Groundskeeper turned to me and said, “My god, good Lord!

And then in that space between shock and awe, it occurred to me.

As much as I resent raccoons, even hate them, I might as well respect them.

They do what they can.

I jabbed again at the skylight, nearly losing my balance on the bed.

The mother raccoon hissed once, and was gone.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, People, Places, THE PAST

Anatomy Lesson

 

Having dispensed with the customary reading of Corinthians 13:4-8:

  1. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
  1. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

the Minister – the struggling sun alighting his thin face, the leaves from the trees shading his features in ugly patches – turned to the Groom and turned to the Bride, and he asked them each in turn:

“Groom, what is your favorite food?”

“Steak,” was his answer. He had to think about it.

“Bride, what is your favorite food?”

“Chocolate,” she answered without hesitation.

“And do you love steak? Do you love chocolate?” asked the Minister.

“Yes,” answered the Groom.

“Yes,” answered the Bride.

From beneath him, the Minister produced a body. Free of blemishes, unmarred in any conceivable way, it was in a word, perfect.

“The Ancient Greeks,” he began, addressing the Groom and the Bride and us, the Dearly Beloved, his hands hovering gently above the body, “have four words for love.”

He looked down at that perfect body, that immaculate skin.

And he plunged his hand within, producing a horrible shlucking sound as he probed past muscle and sinew, past bone and fat and guts, searching for purchase. He stopped suddenly as he found the love, and with a strength almost unimaginable, he pulled it out for all to see.

AGÁPE! Spiritual love, good will and benevolence!” he cried. “With this, you love a spouse or you love a dog and are loved in turn and in kind by them. You are content, with this kind of love.”

He held the love before him, where it pulsated, trying to keep in erratic time with the body from which it had been so cruelly torn. Bile oozed from its insides; sugars and toxins spilled from it, unprocessed. Large and unwieldy, the love was tossed back inside the body’s abdominal walls.

The Minister pointed at the Groom, and then to the Bride.

“Do you each have this kind of love for each other? Do you have this love for each other more than you have for steak? FOR CHOCOLATE?”

“Yes,” was the answer, echoed from Groom to Bride.

Throwing his hands up in the air, the Minister continued. I blinked and suddenly he was driving them down again, into the body once more.

“ÉROS! Physical, passionate love. Attraction, romance. I take it you are well acquainted with this love already,” he intoned rather matter-of-factly, indicating the Groom and the Bride as he moved further down the body, grasping the love at last with both hands. A great balloon, he retched it from its place and held it before us all, cradling it as one cradles a newborn. Juices spilled from the love. It churned, searching, questioning; always hungry, forever ravenous.

Do you each have this kind of love for each other?” whispered the Minister, gently rocking the love to and fro and bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“Yes,” was the answer, immediate and true.

The Minster nodded curtly and dropped the love into the gaping hole before him. He surveyed the crowd, letting his hands wander along the length of the body.

He came to the head, and paused.

I stared on, unable to look away.

We went in through the eyes.

Pulling this love out in handfuls of chunks and mush, he continued.

PHILIA! The love of the intellect. Loyalty, virtue and friendship. ‘Mental love!’” he almost screamed, grabbing frantically at the love, fingernails embedding deeply into the grey matter within.

The synapses of the love spurted, firing helplessly into space, trying desperately to connect as the love was thrown haphazardly over the Minster’s head, at the Groom and the Bride, at the crowd of Dearly Beloved. Finally, having run himself ragged, the Minister stopped. He looked down into this red, red hands and regarded the love with something like pity.

And just as simply, he shrugged off the love, flinging its remnants it into the woods behind him.

“Do you each have this kind of love for each other?” asked the Minister, wiping his hands on the sides of his trousers.

“Yes,” was the answer. The Groom’s voice flattered, consumed with emotion. The Bride’s chest shuddered, as she tried to hold back the tears that were threatening to overwhelm her.

The Minister closed his eyes, breathing heavily, nodding gravely. Finally, he pulled back his arms at impossible angles and plugged first one and then the other fist into the centre of the body. He found what he wanted easily.

STORGĒ! Affection. LOVING AFFECTION. Familial love, natural love, LOVE OF GOD!!!” he shouted, holding this love high in one triumphant hand, while the other braced itself against the poor, mangled body.

The love pounded and throbbed. It shuddered; chilled by the afternoon breeze, pumping diligently away to serve the others, even at it itself was rapidly losing precious oxygen.

“Do you each have this kind of love for each other?” asked the Minister,unwilling or unable to lower his arm, squeezing the love till it was pushed through fingers like tree roots.

“Yes!” answered the Groom and the Bride, both shaking in exquisite agony for what was to come.

“Good. Good. Very good,” said the Minister. He put the love into his back pocket, for later.

Depleted of energy and seeing now his impending irrelevance, the Minister softly proclaimed, “You may then, finally, kiss the Bride. God. Bless. You.”

The Groom, at last, kissed the Bride.

The Bride, breaking the kiss, turned and smiled widely the Dearly Beloved.

And I remember thinking, almost aloud:

Love is, and it wants what it wants.

And who’s going to clean up all this blood?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Ceremony, People, Relationships, Ritual

Pet Shop Boy

 
There is a time and place for everything.

At the pet store, for example.

Feeding Ivan, our pet tarantula, means having to go to the pet store – a place that reminds me of a kind of low-grade zoo/high-end furniture store – every two weeks or so to buy 6 individual live crickets.

Her favourite.

It is not a lot. It’s something like $0.90 dropped into the bucket of a ba-zillion dollar industry.

I know what to do and say at the pet store to get my paltry 6 crickets as quickly as possible so I can get out of there as quickly as possible, and get on with my life:
 
1. Go directly to the register.

2. Repeat the line:

Do you sell individual live crickets? I only need six, but I’ll pay for the dozen.”
 
Pet stores almost always only sell live crickets by the dozen. The clerks are usually quite helpful and sometimes won’t even charge for the full dozen.

But the clerk at this particular store seemed to have fallen off the back of something…

  • A truck
  • An after school special
  • The last immediate century

…And right in front of my existence.

He refused to look up, his hands fumbling under the counter at something that I will imagine as not the crotch of his pants. He sighed heavily at the question and answered, all the while fumbling like it was the best thing since sliced bread and there was no tomorrow and like his life depended on it.

“Yeah,” he said, jutting a jiggling elbow to the back of the store, “just go to the back and ask the brown guy.”

Go to the back and ask the brown guy.

He said it like he said it all the time, everyday. He said that like it was the everyday, said like it wouldn’t leave me standing there, forgetting totally my mission to get out of the pet store as fast as I could and on with the rest of my life.

I stood there, not knowing how to react, something like a ba-zillion responses flashing in my mind. I stood there for so long he stopped fumbling.

We made eye contact.

And something clicked.

WHAT?”

For both of us.

MIIIIIIKE! Go ask Mike!”

Go ask Mike.

Who got me the crickets, all six, but charged me for the dozen.

When I returned to the register to pay, the clerk had disappeared – two bubbly teens working in his place now – had disappeared like some racist mirage. A false blip on an otherwise limitless horizon where people can congratulate themselves for voting Obama.

The Black President.

But as I left, crickets in hand, I saw him again.

In front of me, again, sitting in the food court.

Eating kettle chips.

As real as anything.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, People, Pets, Race

The Taxidermist*

 
There was a time I would go out of my way, past the subway station and down the vacant city blocks, past the dinky little pharmacy and the cramped and sloping tenements, just so I could stand under that big sign and stare in through the window.

TAXIDERMY STUDIO

Morning, afternoon – to my great relief and disappointment, it was never open.

And so I continued my vigil, as often I would find the time.

But on that day, I sensed something inside.

Movement.

Someone was in there. Very much alive.

 

He sat there at the far end of the studio, slumped behind an ancient makeshift table, hands folded primly across his belly. I glanced at the long nails on his fingertips and imagined them stripping skin from flesh. He was framed on one side by a black bear whose outstretched arm pawed tentatively at the air. On his other side stood two pheasants, male and female, their heads bowed low in supplication. He was crowned by a gigantic moose’s head, which jutted out from the wall behind him and hovered, it seemed, but mere inches from his own.

The studio was filled with a heavy, tactile musk. I swallowed a little with each breath to avoid choking on it. The floor was littered with rubber bands, glass eyes, plastic bags, skull fragments and errant tongues. I carefully picked my way around them. He waited until I stood just a few feet away from the table before he lifted his head, and spoke.

Chinese? Pay double.”

I’d lived in the big city long enough and had learned how to respond in kind.

“I’m Vietnamese. So I should only pay half.”

A twinkle came to his eye. He sat there plump and contented and smiled; a King or demi-god preached on an altar of bone and antler.

A deranged Buddha.

The Taxidermist.

 

I heard laughter, impossibly, to my right.

And there, between empty six-packs of Stella Artois, between Tim Hortons cups brimming with seedling plants and amongst a clutch of three scratching hens and a roaster, mid-strut, beside a yawning coyote and under the serene face of a mounted caribou, I saw him.

The Apprentice.

He was wearing a blue lab coat, faded and frayed at the edges, with metal picks and wooden skewers sticking out the pockets. Invisible just a moment before, he now sat there very plainly on a wooden stool, laughing and gesturing wildly around the studio.

“Nothing is for sale here, girl! The man works on commission only.” The Apprentice smiled at me. He jeered, biting the tip of his thumb.

I tried to explain…what?

That I had felt compelled to go out of my way just to stand in front of the studio?

That I did this more than I would like to confess, especially to myself?

That I needed to come inside?

For what?

All around us, from each corner and from every crevice of the poorly lit studio, The Taxidermist’s creations loomed – listening, waiting. Some lingered, merging with the dust and the shadows, while others leaped out in harsh relief, eager to meet my gaze. I caught the contemptuous glance of a thin-faced red squirrel. A wall of gaping fish – trophy pike, largemouth bass, a lonely gar – sighed audibility as a trio of raccoon skulls leered, mouths partially open. The pheasants regarded us inquisitively, while the coyote took in everything with his teeth bared, obviously bored.

“I just wanted to have a look,” I said.

“A look!” said The Taxidermist. “Vietnamese? You look like this,” he pulled the corners of his own blue eyes hard, as if tying to connect them to his ears. Watching me through narrow slits, he laughed. The Apprentice laughed.

It was early yet, but the sun was already setting into winter’s afternoon. The studio was so narrow and crowded that I had to turn around to leave. But I didn’t want to turn my back on The Taxidermist, and I didn’t want to lose sight of The Apprentice. Saying nothing, I willed myself to stay in place.

The Taxidermist rubbed out his face and shifted in his seat, suddenly became very sober.

“It’s OK. Is OK. Everyone,” he murmured, “is from Africa.”

“Everyone is from Africa,” repeated The Apprentice, nodding vigorously.

“You, me, Sammy Davis Junior,” said The Taxidermist, pointing. His accent was thick, but it rolled off his tongue sweetly, deliberately. I tried to place it (Central Europe? Polish, maybe?), but was interrupted by The Apprentice.

“Listen, girl! We’re all the same! Everything is the same! Everything but the skin, and sometimes the hair, and maybe the eyes,” he mused. He braced his hands against his legs against the stool. A metal pick fell to the floor as he did so, but he made no move to retrieve it.

“Have you ever seen aurora borealis?”

The Taxidermist, too, sat up. He reached out and began caressing the black bear on its neck and muzzle, his hands trailing countless rivulets in the soft dark fur.

“You see my shop? I do it all, except the eyes.”

“The man does it all,” confirmed The Apprentice, who started telling me about the lost art of taxidermy. About how the fleck of a brush can make or ruin a specimen completely. About how the positioning of the limbs or the ears or the curvature of muscle can deliver life and expression, or reduce a specimen to awful caricature. About where to cut along the carcass, keeping ever mindful of the toes and that delicate spot around the nose and lips.

The Apprentice rambled on about the animals that had passed through the studio, all creatures great and small (nothing illegal, no pets) and forever in debt to the exquisite touch of The Taxidermist. He spoke darkly of the hunters and sportsmen who had commissioned work from the studio and never returned to pick it up or pay for it.

“Like throwing away the fucking Mona Lisa. Like spitting in da Vinci’s face!”

The Taxidermist, The Apprentice assured me with a grand sweep of his arm, was a master of his art. A true master.

“The man, he knows,” he said, much to The Taxidermist’s obvious pleasure.

Did I, by the way, want to know the secret to taxidermy?

“Arsenic,” whispered The Taxidermist, leaning back against his seat, hands clasping again on his belly. He closed his eyes.

“I know,” here his voiced raised considerably, “what to do with the skin.”

 

But it was obvious, even from the outside looking in, that The Taxidermist’s masterpieces hadn’t left the studio in years. Most were covered in layers of dust and detritus, their coats dulled in uneven blotches by the sun, their fur and hair falling out in turns.

The studio was a wonder, and it was not; a halfway house for things otherwise forgotten, and going extinct everyday.

There were times, said the Taxidermist, when he would let out his more impressive specimens – the spiny porcupine or the smiling alligator, perhaps – to the movie studios and museums.

But no more.

The universities and colleges still ask him to take a on a student or two every semester and the newspapers still sometimes want him to do an interview for (what else?) human interest.

He no longer returns their calls.

The fish, the fowl, the severed and defleshed heads are less relics now than witnesses to the creeping decay and its final promise.

He will never sell them.

Of that I remain utterly certain.

 

It was almost dark now. I began laying down excuses to leave (“have to met up with some friends”, “dinnertime” “it’s almost dark now”), but was saved by The Apprentice, who jerked his head sharply to the side and caught my eye.

“Hey. I like Lenny Kravitz myself.”

He laughed so hard he almost fell off his stool. At this, The Taxidermist’s eyes flew open.

“Enough!” cried The Taxidermist, hands slamming so hard on the table I would swear he shattered it into splinters. His voice was piercing, insistent. It shocked me. The Apprentice, for his part, was reduced to a fit of giggles, which he tried to suppress with both hands over his mouth.

Pushing himself slowly from his seat, The Taxidermist stood up. Grinning, he playfully shook his head at The Apprentice then turned to address me.

“I need to go to my doctor’s appointment. My diabetes.”

He winked.

“Goodbye girl.”

I waited until The Apprentice joined him behind the table and watched as he helped The Taxidermist to the back of the store before I retreated to the front.

I walked out onto the sidewalk. I heard the loud click of the lock. I felt more than saw the lights go out behind me.

I may have looked back, but I don’t remember.
 
 
 
*Long-listed for the CBC’s “Canada Writes Competition”, June 2014.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2 Comments

Filed under Animals, People, Philosophy, Places

The Week’s End And Then Again

 
Mondays are inevitable.
But Tuesdays are unbearable, into the week yet with so much left to go.
Wednesdays are a compromise.
Fridays can’t not happen fast enough, and then are gone.
I always forget about Thursdays.
And the twins of weekend, Saturday and Sunday?

They are the absolute potential, for what’s to come.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Interruptions, Philosophy, Routines

ParticipACTION

 
The person working at the polling station had herded us into the wrong line. That line was VOTER CARDS only. We figured it out on our own, despite her best efforts to assure us that we were, in fact, in the right line, the first line, the whole time.

When she found out she was wrong, she turned around and stopped talking to us completely.

POLL OFFICIAL read the sticker she wore in the middle of her chest.

I turned to the woman who had joined me in the new, correct line.

“It’s like having a rectal exam,” I said, meaning of course the whole damn thing.

“I’d… like to think of it more like getting a body scan at the airport. We all do what we have to. All part of the process, right?”

Not really.

So we stood there in silence, waiting, watching our sausage get made. The registration line, the second line, the right line, was rather short, but it was moving very, very slowly.

“This your first time voting?” the old man at the registration desk, finally, asked the woman. The polling station was, on any other day, the community pool. The chlorine burned my eyes as I waited.

And waited.

“Yes!” was her proud answer. “I have recently come of age. This is my first. Time. Voting. Ever!”

I never received my VOTER CARD, but I showed up anyway. This is not my first election.

Not that I’m bragging, or anything.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under People, Politics

The Luckiest People in the World

 
When you know enough people, eventually you come to owe people favours, whether or not that was your intention in actively knowing them, as people. Not all, but some, which is a lot when you get right down to it.

That’s how I found myself in the park that hot, insufferable day in June. Dead centre in the beating black heart of something known as the “Multicultural Festival”.

It was a place where you could purchase $8.00 giant barbecued turkey legs and $5.00 lemon drinks (cherries and lemon slices and ice and water, served in a plastic cup so wide and squat it is a cube, a small tank of refreshment). A place where you could buy Vietnamese springrolls and Chinese eggrolls and Thai springrolls and watch traditional dances and buy handicrafts, and visit Madam Miasma’s psychic palm reading booth and sign your kid up for Ka-ra-te.

People, being people. Together.

It was a kaleidoscope of elaborate authenticity and good manners. Where everything was up for grabs and within grasp, and words like “DIVERSITY”, “TOLERANCE”, “CULTURE” and “HARMONY” slipped easily from the mind and off the tongue and screamed at the senses from colourful banners flapping here and there.

Hey. It’s a living.

I was with someone who wanted me to give someone else, whom I actively disliked, another chance. To get me to get to know that other person better so that the three of us could function as people, together.

(I owed that that someone a favour, see.)

We killed most of that hot, hazy afternoon wandering from booth to booth, lost in a crowd of open hands and mouths. The sun was unrelenting, the heat absolutely punishing. There was nowhere to sit, no shade to be found.

Garbage everywhere; the discarded remains of the day.

The setting matched my mood completely, gave my surroundings and me an awful, terrible symmetry.

Inevitably, we approached giant barbecued turkey leg booth. I was told that buying and eating a giant barbecued turkey leg was something like a tradition at the Multicultural Festival and had no reason to think or believe or imagine otherwise.

We got in line…

… and watched as the women running the both quarreled animatedly over how the giant barbecued turkey legs should be placed on the grill and whether they should stock up on refreshments and whose turn it was to take their 10-mintue break. They prepared the food, cooked it, took orders and exchanged bills with such speed and efficiency that their patrons stood as the only hindrance to perfect service.

The line moved forward at a brisk clip…

…the women quarreled some more, at times in English, at times not, at times gesturing at the food, the sky, themselves, each other. At times smiling, at times not.

We made it to the front of the line.

I didn’t want any food and neither did the person I owed the favour to. That left the person who the favour was being used up for.

“I have to do this!” he said. “You literally can’t get these anywhere else,” he said.

He ordered, holding up his index finger for emphasis. The woman serving him barely batted an eye as she wrapped up one end of his giant barbequed turkey leg in rough paper and handed it to him. He shoved money into the woman’s hand and grabbed the giant barbequed turkey leg.

But instead of leaving right away, he held his giant barbequed turkey leg in the air for a moment like an oversized lollipop as he paused to watch a particularly lively exchange between the two women before, finally, shuffling off, away from the line.

“See,” he smiled tiny candy teeth at us and nodded behind him, indicating the women, “that’s why we have immigration laws.” Puffed up, proud, grotesque in his overwhelming satisfaction, he smiled just a little wider, mouth sagging ever so slightly at the corners under the weight of his remarkable jowls.

Despite the odds, his performance was the most real, unadulterated thing I had seen that day.

It was undeniable.

He lowered his giant barbequed turkey leg to his face and began devouring it with a gnawing/sucking motion, equally remarkable.

She laughed, shook her head – what can you do? HAHAHA! – and changed the subject.

I watched him eat and eat as we headed back to the salvation of the parking lot, favour over, fulfilled and done with.

Watching and hoping he’d choke on it, even though I was sure it just wasn’t going to happen.

I knew everything, at least, that I needed to know.

We did not become friends.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

2 Comments

Filed under Food, People

Duck Calling

 

Duck Ducklings

The questions were unexpected and extraordinary.

“Are you raising ducklings?”

“How are you going to keep a duck in the city??”

“Will that be good for the ducks, especially with the dog being there???”

No mention of the fact that the duckling – at turns named Donald and Daisy and Howard and Daffy; at turns referred to as “it” or “they” – has two heads, or upon closer inspection (but not that close, isn’t the wooden stand a dead giveaway?) are clearly not alive.

All of the sudden, a two-headed duckling living in the city, being raised in my apartment and with my dog around, was as plain as the beaks on their faces. The real issue, the one more vital than the simple, evident fact of their existence, was my terrible and selfish decision to take the duckling home with me.

It was touching, in a way, and also remarkable; this concern for something so small and innocent. People do have a way of getting past the obvious.

I cleared the air (Everyone! These are fake real ducklings. Please stop asking how I am going to raise a duck in the city!), and laughed and laughed.

Soon after, I put the duckling under glass to keep the dust off of them.

And now I sometimes catch myself looking at it, terrified they cannot breathe.
 

Ducks Under Glass
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Hobbies, Pets

And Punishment

 
The apartment where we live is under the roof of a squat, two-storied house. My neighbour, who moved into the house a few months ago and never leaves his apartment, lives on the floor below, and every time we go out we are obligated to pass his apartment, to the left, the door of which invariably stands in front of the only entry/exit to the house, to the right.

And each time we pass, we get a sick, frightened feeling, which makes us scowl and feel ashamed.

Nothing that any neighbour can do has a real terror for us. But to be stopped on the stairs, to be forced to listen to his trivial, irrelevant gossip, to pestering demands for payment, threats and complaints, and to rack our brains for excuses, to prevaricate, to lie—no, rather than that, we would creep down the stairs like cats and slip out unseen.

Except that we can’t. Not with the creaking of the stairs, which always alerts his clever little ears to our comings and goings.

He does not leave his apartment. He waits, doesn’t wait – is always just there. Ready, and wanting his due, whatever happens to be the thing we are doing or not doing that is simply and absolutely destroying everything in his world that day. Ready and then pouncing from behind that door, trapping us between his door and the door to the outside, which is always closed, muttering curses under his breath and shouting demands to the back of our heads like a deranged landlady from a Russian novel.

But not like.

My downstairs neighour is the deranged landlady from a Russian novel. He is as real as that. He is pulling it off, completely – the transformation utter and total. And he is bringing down the house with him, making it lose the charm it once held, making it, like him, a burden.

The word for this is elusive, but the word for this is also obvious – it is impressive.

Every day that we avoid meeting our landlady by the staircase is a success.

Sound dramatic?

I know.

Tell me about it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

1 Comment

Filed under People, Relationships