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Avian fiction excerpt

Thursday 8/29/19 An excerpt from "Hooded Owl (field watcher)."

There are times I have walked in places when people should be out and none are and I have wondered if during the interval of whatever I was doing—crying, pondering, fucking, dreaming—everyone else has been taken away to some other place and soon I’m going to learn this. Officially. Or as close to officially as I can get. After I check enough houses and make enough phone calls I’ll have to accept it. But then there will be some flurry of movement off in the distance. I’ll realize it’s a person leaving their house and getting into their car that is close to their front door, or a quick flash of a child in a backyard who is momentarily visible because it has collected a ball in the easement between houses.


It was just the two of us walking across a courtyard. The flagstones looked like chalk. I wanted to see if I could sink a nail into them. Fingernail. Every time I saw paintings of Jesus on the cross as a kid I wondered why his hands didn’t split in two, slide down the nails. How he stayed up there. If you nail a steak into the wall and come back later in the day to see what it looks like, you’ll find that the top part of it has split and the steak is on the ground.


“Holy shit, she reeked of pot, right?”


We had passed someone. I hadn’t noticed her, but then again I was looking at the flagstones. “I’m going to turn and look,” I said to myself, and I stopped and did. There was somebody. Not moving. I couldn’t see their face. Covered. They were looking at me. There was the triangle shape by where a nose probably was.


“Oh yeah, that’s crazy,” I said, “That’s a lot of pot.”


In beds cold feet become warm on calves but I don’t think that calves give off any special degree of heat, I think that’s just how people work. A calf does not have special heat-granting utility. I guess you could say that when you don’t know someone anymore whom you wish to, whom you always wanted to—by which I mean, you wanted to know them until you didn’t know anyone anymore—that that is some kind of negative space. But you occupy it. See what I mean? There is always something in negative space, the white part of the page between the two lines, the strip of field between the two rows of forests. Owls get cold easily. Presumably they are not always cold when it is cold out. Something accounts for a difference.