He was waiting for the chickadees. They had left with the cold; went south or whatever. He cleaned their house out over the long winter. The roof was patched and the new paint shiny and white. He had done the right thing, everything he could. The chickadees would come back soon.
He told himself it was a late spring. The little pond was still cold, the goldfish sluggish. But the cardinals were back already. So were the robins. They were so much more colorful, easier to spot. Maybe his birds had already returned. It was so hard to see them sometimes. He had to remember to pay attention. They needed attention. It would be different this time.
He knew better, even before the goldfinches took over the empty house. The chickadees had abandoned him. He wasn’t angry. That had been before; that was what had driven them away. Instead he closed a curtain over the window that faced the pond and the birds. Now he could clean out his house; patch up the fist sized holes in the drywall; make everything shiny and white again. She had loved to watch her chickadees. He wondered if she missed them as much as he did.
Category Archives: Derek Ivan Webster
Birdhouse by Derek Ivan Webster
Rash Decision by Derek Ivan Webster
She made that face when he said it, the one that reminded him of his mother. He took a deep breath and tried to keep his tone even. What came out was script swiped straight from the old man.
“Who in their right mind wants to come home to this!” he bellowed.
She watched him from the couch. The baby was nursing on her lap; the fullness of her breast burst free of her shirt and smothered the sleeping pinkness. He could remember when such softness was meant for him: her warm weight pressed against his face. She had not touched him since the hospital.
“Got it out of your system?” He didn’t respond. “Good, then you can change the diaper.” She held the wrinkly bundle out. The baby looked peaceful wrapped so tightly in its blanket. He knew exactly how long that would last.
The little body writhed, its screams rattling the changing table. The pad was already drenched with piss. There was a violent looking rash between the legs. The warmer stood empty and overturned to the side, the last wet-one used. Another deep breath as he watched his baby wail against the world.
A hand touched him on the shoulder. He felt the fingertips reach past his collar and trace the skin of his neck.
“We need you, you know,” she said. He knew. He opened his hand and she gave him a wipe.
“She’s beautiful,” he nodded and decided to let the rash air itself out.
Ma Deuce by Derek Ivan Webster
One after another they jangled as they skittered across the ground. The hours of blasting percussion had all but stolen his ears, yet the sharp metal tinkle of brass on stone still wormed its way inside his helmet. The belt ran empty; the mechanical feed continued to whir. He unclenched his glove and let his thumb off the steel butterfly. The silence, once it finally arrived, was uncomfortable. It was nearing noon and an unrelenting blaze flooded down from the white-hot dome of the sky.
Kenneth leaned forward to seize the next belt from a line of a half-dozen metal canisters stacked in a neat row beside him. Four of the green tins were already empty. His knees trembled slightly as he fed the brass track into the hungry Browning. He had been seated behind the beast most of the day; his feet tingled and the back of his pants dripped with perspiration. He smacked the charge handle and let it spring forward with an unflinching metal assurance. He licked his lips. He should have brought a second canteen.
Somewhere on the far side of the scorched valley his opposite number waited. A shower of exploding gravel had met Kenneth’s last attempt to leave the cliff. A scope; he had a scope. Kenneth retook the handles of the Browning and scanned the naked crags, at least a mile away, with his open sites. He thumbed down the butterfly. The shell casings returned to their skittering dance. Kenneth continued his search.
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The Watchers by Derek Ivan Webster
The old man handed him a foil wrapped Swisher, puffing away at his own from between grey teeth.
“I’m not supposed to smoke,” the boy said. He took the cigar anyway. They sat in two chairs facing off an open wooden deck. The evening was cool and dry. An electric stanchion stood between them, polluting the brittle night sky with its light.
“I used to bring your father out here,” said the old man. The boy expected more. Nothing came. He unwrapped his Swisher and held it out. The old man’s lighter trembled as it caught. The boy took a long drag and let the sweet smoke roll about his mouth. It tasted different without the bitter his friends always wrapped inside.
More silence followed and the boy glanced down at his watch. It was getting late. His mother would be back to pick him up soon. He would ask her not to bring him here anymore.
“Be patient.” The old man leaned over and tapped his leg. “They’re almost here.”
“Who’s that?” the boy shrugged.
“Friends of your father,” the old man nodded out toward the darkness beyond the deck. “Friends of ours.” Cigar still in hand he reached over to the stanchion and turned off the light.
In an instant the whole sky was alive with stars. So many more than the boy had ever noticed before. Clear, sparkling, constant, they watched him with an undeniable familiarity.
“Welcome home,” said the grandfather. The boy awaited a distant reply.
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Coniferous by Derek Ivan Webster
The pinecone fell at the edge of the lawn. It landed in that confused region neither manicured enough for grass nor wild enough for weed. It was smooth and dark like a single piece of aged leather. Seen through my window it might have been a dropped billfold, a shoehorn or a ruffian’s pocket sap.
I noticed nothing of it then, which is to say it signified little at the time. My thoughts were elsewhere that morning. There was an open letter on my desk; beside it a dry pen waited. The pen would not be dipped that day. The note found its way to the fireplace. The pinecone played no part in this reticence.
A week passed and the afternoon shadows deepened the edge of the lawn. It was the anger of the squirrels that finally brought me outside. They were attacking something, tearing at one another to go after their prize. My dress flattened the grass as I ran, leaving no trace of footsteps. Vermin skittered away as I approached the remains. The pinecone was open now, broken into sections with the interior exposed. I chose a piece; it was singular. It might have been a wooden tooth, a scale of armor or half of a child’s toy heart.
At my desk the last of the pinecone lay atop the fresh letter. I would send it to him, though he would not understand. The lawn was all flame now as a lamp blinded my side of the window.
Mummery by Derek Ivan Webster
She placed strips of lace about the wrists. Pearls were strung and restrung around the neck. A base layer was powdered atop the features and subdued umber colors were chosen to highlight the lips and eyelids. The skin was dry and cracking in places. The flesh beneath was hard and resistant to the application of lotion. More clothing would be needed; perhaps a fur stole.
She lifted the head and sprayed perfume across the soft white pillow. It didn’t take much, just a whiff, a familiar smell. She returned the head to its rest and flattened the surrounding linen with a dusting brush. There would be no wrinkles. If anything had been made clear it was that.
She stood back to survey the results of her care. It was much better now. Less natural. More real. There was something still missing. Was it the stole? Could she place a cigarillo between the lips? Would it stay? It somehow seemed in poor taste, so she abandoned the thought. She left the shiny black case in the gloved hand.
She felt like a priest preparing her queen for an immortality beneath the pyramids. There should have been cats to stuff and golden relics to stash away at the corners. Whose fault was their absence?
She meant to say something; this seemed the moment to speak. The sense of responsibility quickly passed. It was to be a closed casket. Her mother’s request. She shut the heavy lid and went to change her clothes.
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