A woman looks up from the manuscript on her desk to the thud at her window. A bird flew into the glass, clean—and clear as air—from a week of storms. She knew it wasn't romance. A rock from a lover too timid to knock on the front door, ring a bell.
She draws the blinds, presses her cheek against the glass to see the injured bird close against the house, behind the stunted hydrangeas.
The bird is cream except for indigo flair around the eyes and on the tips of the wings and crest. The beak is sun bright. One wing is stuck open.
The woman recently lost her dog, a mutt she inherited when her daughter moved out of state. The mutt had kidney stones, a milky eye. She loved her for years, slept with her underfoot, under cover. The mutt shimmied under a plank in the fence loosed by a raccoon, and a delivery truck struck her. She was darting across the street to steal loot from the neighbor. The grocery bag on his hip had just split. Roast beef and mandarins bounced in arcs through the screech of tires. The woman signed for her package—the manuscript on her desk, along with a letter—and accepted, over and over again, the apologies of the driver.
Her husband shoveled the mutt into a black garbage bag. The woman had been staring at the poor smashed thing imagining the burial she would give her in their back yard, under the pear tree. Maybe it would finally fruit. She turned her back when the shovel sparked across the concrete and pivoted to cremation, an elegant urn. By the time her husband swung the bag onto the curb for pick-up, she had gone inside the house and considered the matter resolved. She would cry in the tub.
The wife tells herself, a knock on the head like the bird took would take a minute to shake off. She would give the fellow a minute. Look again.
The manuscript opened on the woman's desk has a strange hand in the margin, a note almost faded out of time, beside a passage where a mailman begins to court the protagonist, a loose stand-in for the author, in a series of unstamped letters he leaves in her mailbox. The woman discovered the notation when the bird thudded. It reads: This. The woman knows it isn't the author's hand, having divined meaning time and again from the familiar strikes and loops and signature back-slant in the edited and over-edited drafts of the author's novels. Whom did this author trust? The woman's job is to ferret out biography. Could this editor, this small voice, be a lover?
The woman looks out the window for the bird. There is hope in her heart but no belief that she won't find it there, still injured. She is delighted to discover the wing folded, the fellow looking up.
"Who's outside?" Her husband is halfway inside her office before he speaks. The other dog, a grey poodle from his first marriage sits on his foot and watches the startled woman recompose, turn from the window.
"The neighbors have an outdoor cat. A bird hit the window. It's in the flowers. The cat's always shitting in my beds. Rescue the bird. Please."
"You rescue it," he says.
He looks at her and at the work on her desk. She hardly leaves it. He teases her. Or did. "You'll curl in on yourself, spiral into a shell."
He follows his dog out.
Last week, they fought over her colleague. He sent her the manuscript, was able to procure it after considerable effort. Her husband suspects his wife is having an affair. The man lives out of state, is married himself, with children, but after a few missed calls at conferences and hushed video chats at home, her husband can't be dissuaded.
The woman wishes she was having the affair.
She met the man, a fellow biographer, years ago at a literary mixer. They were graduate students. She was between marriages and had not met her current husband. The man and the woman hit it off over gin filched from a cater waiter. They had sex, but only that night. She called his arms oars as they crashed. He met his wife soon after. The woman never knew how to broach the topic of infidelity with the man.
The woman doesn't tend her flowerbeds. They are empty except for the white hydrangeas, a couple of orange geraniums, and a ground-covering vine burnt back to the shade of the eaves.
The bird faces her, but it doesn't see her. As quietly as she can, she steps toward it, to what? nab it? bring it inside? nourish and repair it? She cracks a twig and freezes.
The bird doesn't move. He hasn't moved.
Then she hears it. A cat's vocal trick, stunning the bird. How does it work? Why does it work? She wonders both as she turns her attention to chasing the cat.
The cat shakes its ass to spring for the kill.
She kicks it almost to the street when it passes over her foot.
She turns to the bird, but he's gone. She looks around the bed. She looks up. Can he fly?
The sky has a single cloud, small and soft and harmless, misplaced in the blue.
is a queer writer and artist working in Austin. His work has appeared in Columbia, Jellyfish Review, Wigleaf, elimae, Electric Literature, Flavorwire