a bird in the hand…

Some people never remember their dreams. I find this to be very strange. I, for one, almost always remember the main dream of the evening, or morning, as it happened today.

I was sitting on the toilet at my mother’s house, mind blank, eyes zoning out on the contrasting vermillion of the towels and the black and white photos hung with varying silver frames. I could hear the Frente version of Bizarre Love Triangle (an odd choice for my mother) playing in the living room, when suddenly the ground began to shake and the walls began to come down and collapse. And all I could think, jeans and panties around my ankles, was, ‘But I haven’t seen Barbados, so I must get out of this…”

I don’t know how the dream would have ended in its natural progression, because it was broken into by the sound of a rooster crowing. Upon consciousness I thought I must have been dreaming, sort of a dream within a dream. I checked my trusty alarm clock; the sterile, red digital numbers shining from the black box on my nightstand read 7:00. My day had started three hours earlier than it should have, and there was nothing that could be done, save for finding the noisy animal and taking it out of its misery. The crowing continued, mercilessly, testing my limits with its cacophonies.

My head hurt. I was up late drinking dirty martinis with Vincent, watching foreign films. He had fallen asleep on the couch to the menu of Jules et Jim, and as I made my way into the living room, now the music accompanied the crowing. But he had been my savior, thankfully making quite a few appearances in the past month. Ever since Rabbit’s wedding, I had been particularly reclusive, only going out to work, mostly staying in, cooking, reading, trying to write and hating everything I had been producing. He goaded me to be patient, let the worries run off of me. Drink less whiskey and more wine. That part I wasn’t so sure about.

Drew had no doubt been scared off since Rabbit’s wedding also; although he chose to ignore it, the history in my eyes had been very apparent. That night we had slept together, and it was very different than it had ever been. There was a miserable, bitter quality that came from me, him, or the combination of the both of us. It could have quite possibly been our collective sorrow; perhaps he was fucking me out of him and I was fucking him out of me.

Maybe we needed to lose each other in order to move forward. Although he always swore up and down that all we were doing was passing time.

We hadn’t spoken much since then. We jammed together, if you could call it that; but the chemistry between us had been off and little to none was useable. We had come together in a blues-type way, sort of helpless and erratic, but deep. Melancholy. It fit us. We didn’t have any real future plans for the project, other than attempting to find a drummer who could deal with our dipsomaniac manners. It wasn’t going to be easy. But we were in no hurry.

The rooster wouldn’t stop crowing. I was smirking at Vincent, who had been unfazed by the sound. I tugged on his trouser leg, and he snapped to, wiping a bit of spittle from the corner of his lips.

“Why hello, darling.” A bright, greasy smile spread across his lips until the light (or lack thereof) became apparent to him through the miniblinds. “What the hell time is it?”

For a moment, I felt bad that I had awoken him, since the rooster hadn’t. Soon enough, however, the serenade continued.

“And what the HELL is that?”

I laughed. “I suspect it’s a rooster.”

He took a long time to sit up. He held his head and in a gravelly voice mumbled, “Goddamn. Who the hell has a rooster in an apartment complex?”

It reminded me of Rain Dogs, side one, track two, “Clap Hands.”

It wasn’t only what he said; it was the combination of what he said and what was really happening. The irony of this farm animal strutting around the courtyard of an apartment building, doing only what came naturally but waking up all the people who deserved to be awoken, the ones who had successfully avoided the grind. It all tickled me, constructed a laugh within me that came out with a heartiness that hadn’t been present in quite a while. It made me want music playing, billowing throughout the confines of my home, thick and heady like clouds of foam. It made me want a bloody mary.

“I don’t know,” I finally responded.

He lifted a Parliaments box from his jacket pocket, retrieved a cigarette with his lips. He was in slow motion, as I could hardly remember a day he was up this early, at least with me. We went to bed past three, as most evenings we spent together. Most days, should this awkward awakening have happened, we would talk a bit before deciding to go back to our respective slumbers. But with the rooster on the loose, we knew such things weren’t possible.

We walked to the kitchen while he lit the cigarette with a faded black metal Zippo.

“You make drinks, I’ll get the vinyl going.” It was as if he had read my mind.

His choice wasn’t as such. Soon enough, Cat Stevens filled my living room while we sipped on tomato vodka goodness—extra spicy for Vincent. His tastebuds, I was sure, had long since been burned away.

“I don’t know about that film,” he said finally, crossing his arms.

“I can’t believe you don’t know about that film,” I retorted, taking a drag from his second cigarette.

“The end is just so, tacked on, or something. Very Harold and Maude meets Romeo and Juliet.”

I gave him my sideways smirk, the one I have become famous for, if only on a small scale. “The curse of those A + B titles, eh?”

He laughed. “Indeed.”

I took another drag from his cigarette, if only to pair it with the drink as medicine I severely needed. I sighed, taking a look around the apartment. I hadn’t accomplished much in the past month. The things I had collected from the Arab’s garage hadn’t yet been put away, but rather, strewn around my living and bedroom in a chaotic, unruly manner.

“I just don’t understand why it’s so commonplace to off yourself in the name of love.”

We each took long swigs, avoiding the straw. “Fuckin A.”

The crowing continued, but the alcohol was softening the blows. We hadn’t spoken in a while but eventually it came out of Vincent. “We oughta kill that bird.”

I giggled again, this time probably more because of the vodka than anything else. “Coq au vin anyone?”

We were both in our night before clothes, I in a turquoise halter and faded jeans, he in his standard garb, sans the ugly green jacket, which was, as usual, slung over my chair. I thought about last year and our absence from each other; remembering the jacket slung over the chair, how I had slept in it one night I felt very far away from myself, how it smelled like tobacco and green olives, how it broke my heart.

My body was growing warm inside, in a pleasant way, even though the look of my apartment was causing my empty stomach to churn. Vincent being here was important. I felt important because he was here.

“Should we investigate?” he finally queried, and I agreed. We stood up and carefully exited the apartment, our eyes scrutinizing the grounds, looking for our noisy suspect.

It didn’t take us long to figure out where the crowing was coming from. The animal was tied to a bush that was directly underneath the mailbox, and he looked mad as hell. I laughed at the silly sight of him. “Well I’ll be goddamned. Why do you suppose someone would tie him up to the mailbox like that?” Vincent looked confused, but I was beyond that point.

Suddenly, inspiration hit me. “We should release him!”

Vincent gave me a sideways look. “I don’t know about all that, Jo. That little thing looks evil.”

I was taken aback by his reaction. He didn’t call me Jo often. My mom called me Jo. He only called me that in dire circumstances, when he meant business. He couldn’t have meant business about releasing the rooster; it seemed a rather organic idea, something we would have done when we were ruffian kids in the neighborhood, chasing each other through sprinklers.

But I suppose that wasn’t something that ever could have happened; the age difference was much greater as such and he didn’t seem the sprinkler-running-through type. But joy did still live within him, it just generally came through within a bottle or a dress.

I was giggling, teasing the rooster. Vincent seemed almost scared or worried, which made me giggle more. I turned my backside to him, let him chew and peck at my jeans. “Oh come on!” I said, baiting him, teasing him also.

“I’ve got a pocket knife, I’ll do it.” I went inside to retrieve it. But it wasn’t as easy as I’d suspected; the liquor was tickling me, making it hard for me to handle things sharply. I was wondering why I’d become buzzed so quickly, then realized we had eaten little (and early) last night and my stomach was probably as empty as it’s been.

I found myself knocking a myriad of things off of the coffee table. The red clay coasters I disturbed added to my hysterics, thinking of the glass Rabbit ones, the ones that claimed forever, the ones that made me gag. I wondered what he was doing at such an ungodly hour; no doubt he was engaging in pillow talk or helping make the bed, a coffee or underclothes commercial in itself, the billowy down comforter going up and down in the air, pearly white teeth to match.

In a split second, a real moment where I felt as if I had stepped outside of myself to watch myself, I threw one of those coasters across the room, chipping the paint on the accent wall.

Vincent stepped back into the apartment to ask me if I was okay. I was on my knees and glanced back to see Vincent’s battered Doc Martens. They broke me back into reality, my quest to find this pocketknife, this tiny step to the rooster’s liberation.

Soon enough, I found the trusty pocketknife. Interestingly enough, I had forgotten it was originally Johnny’s, wooden on the outside, his initials engraved. I instantly remembered it as a groomsmen’s gift, for my aunt of sorts, one of those women you swear you were related to but couldn’t quite explain it. She had been a bit of a spinster, a little nuttier than the rest of my family (which was saying something), but eventually in the later half of her forties, had found love.

It had been cheesy and overbearing but I had no realistic alternative. I had been forced to wear a chocolate colored, long-sleeved velvet dress, in the dead of summer. He had to wear a green and brown suit, and it had been quite humorous. I remembered him and the dumb look he had to offer, standing alongside people he had met merely once or twice. I loved him then, for his unaffected loyalty, his sweet gestures. I remembered thinking he would have done anything for me. And yet here, this token of when we were better than we probably ever were, was in my hands and not his own. I wondered when I had inherited it, if he had slipped it in a drawer of mine back on our old street, perhaps when the beginning of the end had begun.

I felt like John Cusack in High Fidelity. I wanted to go back and ask questions. But for the present, the answers would be of no consequence.

The knife was mine now.

Vincent followed me out the door slowly if not somewhat apprehensively. I tiptoed toward the mailbox, blade out and ready to go. The challenge before me had more to do with the rooster not thinking I was going to injure him; if I had released him and he was still in a state of panic or fear, an attack very well seemed possible. And birds had always made me nervous.

I remember going to a fancy hotel in San Francisco as a child once with my parents. The lobby was almost entirely brass in décor, shiny, almost electric with its luminescence. While they spoke to the man and woman over the desk, my eyes were caught by a large brass cage with a parrot inside, probably half the size of myself at the time. A bellman spotted me peering into the cage and came over to say hello and show off the bird’s talents. “Say hello, Mariah.”

The creature had turned its head to me in an Exorcist-esque manner, its black beady eyes staring through me. “HELLO MARIAH!” It was like it was screaming. It literally caused me to step backwards and fall. My father had sprung to my aid, helping me up, giving the gentleman who had been talking to me a stern look. But it hadn’t been his fault. I supposed some children were entertained by the shrill screaming of big, ugly scary-looking birds. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the feathered thing, cloaked in conventionally pretty blues and greens, imprisoned by gold bars. I had been thankful for those bars.

By the look of Vincent’s face, I could tell he was wishing for those bars now. It hit me that I didn’t understand why the release of this bird was meaning so much to me. Perhaps it was because I didn’t like to see animals locked up, which was why I never went to zoos or aquariums. But I had come this far and couldn’t get out of it now. I defied Vincent to do so, it would be done.

It was a quick, stealthy twist of my wrist, and the twine was cut. It took the rooster a moment to discover its freedom, and then it was there, charging toward us, crowing angrily. We ran back to the apartment, taking a few cautious looks behind us. However, in our panic, we were so concerned about making it back safely within the apartment that we didn’t slam the door behind us before the rooster entered.

Vincent screamed like I never heard him scream before, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed him jump up on the couch. I couldn’t help but laugh but I was also alarmed. I thought of my furniture being destroyed by this tiny thing, and it angered me. I looked around the living room, wondering where Man Ray was. I grabbed a Salvador Dali coffee table book (that, luckily, was resting on the dining room table), and held it out in front of me, gesturing toward the bird, toward the door. He was crowing louder and louder, screaming like Mariah.

Then there Man Ray was. Coming from the bathroom, walking nonchalantly into the living room, hissing. The rooster stopped crowing for a moment and made eye contact. Now no doubt my cat is a badass, but I had no idea how he would fare against the animal. He had no fighting experience, had never even roughed it outside. I came toward the rooster with the book again, pushing him back, toward the door. He pecked at my hand, at the book, tearing the cover. I noticed that my hand had started bleeding.

He was trying to get around me, back to Man Ray. Vincent got off the couch and started rummaging through things to help my quest.

I started shouting back at the despicable thing, getting braver with the book, getting closer to the door. Just then, Man Ray jumped up on the couch, right within eyeshot of the rooster, and it practically exploded in rage, screaming again, getting past me and heading toward the couch.

Just then, POP. The crow that had been in the rooster’s mouth sort of caterwauled down to a low pitch and ended. He keeled over at my feet, Man Ray frozen, staring.

Vincent was holding a BB gun, yet another thing I had retrieved from the Arab’s garage. I looked at him.

“I didn’t mean to kill it.”

I didn’t say anything, but looked at the rooster again. “Maybe it’s just wounded.”

It wasn’t.

Man Ray was still hissing.


1 Response to “a bird in the hand…”

  1. 1 Kismet
    October 6, 2008 at 10:33 am

    ‘The Arab’? Haha. Takes me back to that day when I read the entirety of ‘The Stranger’ at your bar. Boy was I tipsy by the time I got to the end…

    Korea sucks today. Maybe we should run away to Barbados instead 😉

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