Hannah E Phinney
We lost Egret three months ago today. In the houseboat, waking late to slanted solstice sun from small portholes laying puckered squares of light across our faces . . . two fathers, two mothers, and the children nearby. Wisteria and Pie rubbing sleepy browned faces — but oh! Where had the little mute one gone? Panic set in slowly since he was a wayward chap, prone to diurnal voyages of the solitary type. (He'd appeared unto us one summer hailstorm eight years back, a disheveled wee orphan with planetary eyes.) Only after several days did we start to purse our lips in worriment. A week had us out stomping the riverbanks, the cobblestones of centre-ville, the arboraceous stretches at city's end . . . glimpsing neither scrawny hide nor tufted hair of the luckless imp.
Each day for fourteen days we searched. Lyon trawled the riverbed with his nets; Monte snuck into the emptied knots of trees; Candace spun beaconing hymns through the dusk. We made god's eyes and evil eyes and dream catchers . . . we planted four-leaf clovers and bamboo. However it was, our dear Egret did not come back. I missed him in pulses, my heart at the mercy of sorrow's ebb and wax. I missed his corybantic gestures, his eyes always wide and bright. Maybe most I missed his slumberous nuzzling at the witching hour. But we moved on with more living, as all good people do.
Then this evening, from outside the cabin: hard lines of immediate rain and a muscular rocking. The lot of us punched to-and-fro into curved walls, thoroughly interrupted in our electro-gypsy-dubjam session . . . instruments soaring round the room, making contact, crunching into sad, peppery bits. Next, a sickening sound — the hull sucking water as if Sahara-parched. Screams white, mouths white, eyeballs filling as white as the arrows of lightning loving the river on which we floated and in non-monsoon times maintained our poor but merry existence. I scuttled across vertical boards formerly horizontal. I scrabbled with stripped mind, thinking only: get the children. At the stern, Wisteria's red curls were everyplace like electrified. Pie had been tossed atop the toilet and was howling flame-blue terror. The children, the children, a breakneck refrain. Monte and Candace snatched their Wisteria. Lyon and I seized our Pie. Out the door to the pier, dashing to the bank.
Suddenly wails (out-pitching the storm) forced our heads around. A blackened creature emerged from the hull hole. It was Egret. An Egret with algae-eaten face and skin cellophaned to bone. An Egret three-quarters dead. But one-quarter alive, and returned to us by the squall! We scooped up his wretched frame all-angles and ran to shelter, grinning through the torrents to have back our tempest-blessed baby.
Hannah E. Phinney
recently received her M.A. in linguistics. She is currently slinging booze and writing flash fiction while deciding whether to spend another decade in school. Her work has appeared in The Cafe Irreal
, Cease, Cows
, Smashed Cat Magazine
, and others. Hannah lives in San Francisco.