He saw birds. They would awaken him from deep sleep, parrots usually, or macaws, finches, toucans. Colorful birds with all their glorious colors wanting to eat him alive. In a terrifying swoop and glide their high pitched screeches were mind numbing. In that moment of climax he would awaken in a sweat. He would awaken at the moment their face was right in front of his and the high pitched squawk echoed throughout the forest. Their piercing eyes and sharp beaks ready to crack his skull like a walnut. Their colors magnificent and unlike colors he had ever known, unlike any colors he had ever seen here. He woke. All survival mode set into gear his chest heaved as he breathed in heavily like the hunted animal he was. A hunted animal that made an escape. He breathed out, sighed... relief, he was not caught.. But then sadness, his guts turned, a heaviness in his chest, something was looming around the corner. He could taste it.
There is a window open in a small room with the breeze going, flowing in beautifully just caressing the skin and massaging the scalp. There is never anyone in there, hardly anyways. Frank is there now, he sits on a chair and thoroughly is in a state of bliss. To anyone else it’s dark in there, scary. With its concrete walls and floor it resembles an old warehouse, spiders have made a home there. It used to be the Miller's back house. He sits there mouth ajar, sleepy eyed, with a slight smile, high out of his mind on meth. He hears the wind call his name and remembers a time before he was “infected”. He did not know how he got here or where he was really so when a women outside asked him,
“what are you doing in there”?
He responded angrily “fuck you lady”! Angry because he did not know the answer, and she just uninvitedly interrupted his beautiful world.
She cleaned houses for a living, her brown skin gleamed in the sun covered in a layer of sweat, she hated sweating it made her feel so dirty. She also didn’t want to get any darker. She rubbed her forehead with one hand and squinted. He looked bad, she thought although she wasn’t a beauty herself. He looked like a homeless person. Greasy white people hair dirty and matted. He reminded her of this white guy at Starbucks who was rude to her. They had the same kind of nose, a long sharp white person's nose. And why didn’t he work like the rest of us? He got through life just coasting by, mooching, squatting in abandoned buildings until the police came and kicked him out. If he thought he was going to get away with that shit here he was wrong.
She made a report with the police, lets face it if it was the other way around they would be quick to turn us in.
“Yes there is a man staying in the back house of my old neighbors house
No, no one is living there now
They are a bunch of drug addicts who knows what kind of stuff they are doing there.”
They told her they would send somebody to check it out. The person on the phone sounded apathetic.
She sat up and waited. She was boiling some hot tea on the stove. The wood floors creaked beneath her bare feet. The television was on but she wasn’t watching, she just kept it on for company . The infant was later found in a near by gas station with minor injuries, San Bernardino police are still searching for the whereabouts of the mother .
The police never came that day. She spent the next morning looking out of the window, nothing! On her way out the door to go and clean Miss. Maggie's house the cop car pulled up. She saw the 2 officers go to the back of the Miller's house. Shortly afterward one knocked on her door, ”Ma’am i’m officer Stone we have issued the gentleman a warning, and have asked him to leave the premises.” He was dark skinned, Mexican maybe? “If any future questions and concerns give me a call.” He handed her a card.
“Ok thank you officer.” She nodded her head in agreeance. But she did not agree.
The spiderwebs in the corner of the room glistened when they caught the light of the moon, he thought this was absolutely beautiful. He was convinced this was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He told Jackie that after he fucked her. She laughed wildly, she was a drunk not a meth head. “You think that’s the most beautiful thing you’ve seen? You sure know how to make a girl feel special.”
“No baby, not as beautiful as you”, he kissed her on the lips, she was fishing for compliments and she made a catch. She laughed like someone much younger than her age.
The pot simmered on the hot plate, hot bubbly spices and seasonings whirling around in a dance. The aroma molecules floating in the air and permeating the entire house. They traveled out of a cracked window, the only window in the room. It smelled like a good home cooked meal. Half the neighborhood wondered where that aroma was coming from. Mr. Grobe remembered his mother. The old blue dutch oven was freckled with brown spots, it had been used probably thousands of times. It looked antiqued. He had gotten it from an old friend a woman that took him in. He was sure that it made the best chicken chilli on the planet. He stirred the pot with a wooden spoon and flicked a few drops of the sauce in the palm of his hand, he tasted it, paused a moment, it was exactly right. The habanero was a little spicier than he thought it would be, but it was still exactly right.
He emptied tortilla chips into a large bowl the red and green ones, today was Christmas Eve.
“Babe i’m bringing wine and maybe some vodka, what do you want”?
“Yeah that sounds good”
She stopped at the grocery store on her way over, 2 men tried to pick her up, 2!, she laughed it off. She thought she looked classy today, apparently not. Even hookers deserve Christmas off she thought to herself. The streets were adorned in Christmas lights. A few inches of snow covered the ground, the silence was captivating. She exhaled and her breath formed floating clouds.
The chilli was still on very low heat, on the burner that he lugged from one place to the next, the sauce had to thicken. He liked his with white rice and sometimes an avocado. Harvey liked it on a hamburger bun with “no extra shit on top”. And Jackie she liked hers with tortilla chips and cheese. Jackie showed up with a big brown paper bag. She looked pretty, her skin was glowing and her lips a pretty shade of red. Her hair pulled back in soft curls. She had to walk over Harvey who was laid out on the floor.
“Well well well, look who decided to show up”. He said his eyes never leaving the dutch oven. Harvey opened one of his eyes and mumbled something, then closed them again.
“I brought the goods”, she smiled.
Today she looked more like a hot highschool teacher, than a drunk. Her chocolate colored scarf wrapped around her neck, contrasting her bright red sweater. Harvey got up, she liked being the only girl.
The table was set up in a buffet style a big bowl of chicken chilli, hamburger buns, white rice, tortilla chips, salsa, sour cream, chopped cilantro, radishes and onions. “This guy thinks he’s chef Mario Bat-alley, all cuz he went to Le Cordon Bleu”, Harvey nudged his friend. His mouth watered at the sight of the chilli. he hadn’t had a good meal in weeks... months…? Frank made his rice bowl and topped it off with cilantro and onions, he tossed a few tortilla chips on top. He held it in both hands like a prized possession.
It was not without going unnoticed their Christmas party. Lam heard it, the aroma in waves like in a Walt Disney cartoon came in under her closed kitchen window. It was definitely a Grandma’s recipe. She saw on 60 minutes that heroine was back on the rise. Is that what they were doing? Her friend invited her over to her parents house but she did not want to go. She did not want to be presented as the charity case, the bum with nowhere to go. She was looking forward to eating food and watching Netflix. She made tacos, that’s all she was looking forward to, that and a Margarita she had picked limes off of the tree in the backyard for.
The sun was blazing and he thought of his mother. She was only 47 when she died, and what caused it? He wasn’t quite sure. He was halfway across the country and long gone, long gone when it happened. His uncle had found her sitting in front of the television the Phil Donahue show was on. He walked to the back because she wasn’t answering the front door. The backdoor was cracked open and the cat was sitting right there between the door and the crack, eyes in sleepy slits. “Elsa” he called out, then he saw her sitting there and he knew. He hadn’t seen his mother in 10 years when he found out the news.
Again the birds swooping down to pick up their prey, their eyes angry. This time the bird picked at cactus fruit violently stabbing at it. One particularly beautiful bird adorned with fuchsia and magenta luminescent feathers. Had all the juices covering its beak and dripping onto the ground in a rich royal bordeaux, it’s feet submerged in a puddle of the juices. He woke with an unapologetic dreadful heaviness, He knew what this meant he had been here before. The last time his mother passed. This time it would be Jackie.
She heard wailing, sobbing throughout the night. It did not stop and it flowed like a song. It sounded like laughter at first like a good hearty chuckle with its rhythm. The type of rhythm that makes your shoulders rise and drop and your neck bend forward, and your back slump. It sounded like that, it started on a high note and progressively got lower, there was a musicality to it. It was not terrifying but sad and comforting,
The light shined on the shed out back of the old Miller’s house. After they left it was a group of college kids that moved in, they threw parties just about every other weekend and really tore the house apart. It was still a beautiful home though. When the Millers lived there the house was filled with warmth and sadness. Sadness because Mrs. Miller was unhappy. The unhappiness caused her to ruin her marriage, she ran off with her professor. Their little boy was bright forming proper sentences before his first birthday. He loved swinging on that old tire swing in the back. The trees had fruit, crab apples, and the apples were all over the ground rotting and full of worms. Mr. Miller was a loner, and he tried not to be but after the incident he retreated to the basement most evenings never reemerging. When you accept sadness sometimes you are left with a warm fuzzy feeling inside that can be extremely satisfying. You have given up resistance and face it. Like a guilty pleasure you better not share with others out of fear they might judge you or call you a crazy person. Sadness can be comforting, Mr. Miller was friends with the voices inside of his head.
The match flicked against the striker and the sound of the the flame revved up like an engine.
“I’m making tea for you babe, you have to get better”.
Her body ached as she tossed and turned on the memory foam. The memory foam he had picked up. Someone was giving away their furniture down the street on La Brea. They had put all of their stuff out, a couch, a bed frame, and a memory foam. She was sick she did not know why. It was after their Christmas party. “You know I always get sick on New Years?Every fuckin time”. She tried to make light of the situation which he found endearing. It reminded him of the time she broke her tooth and said “at least it will keep me from eating for a while, I could stand to lose some weight.” In all her pain and suffering she spared those around her, she made them feel better about their efforts. This time seemed much worse. His hands trembled as he poured the tea but he tried his best to hide his worried sadness, “here you go, drink it while it’s hot”. She couldn’t even sit up. She attempted to move her muscles and raise her upper body, it wasn’t happening. It was so incredibly exhausting. He grabbed her hand with his warm sweaty palm, her’s ice cold, and got her into the sitting position. She let out a tired sigh, her body ached______.
“Thank you”, she mumbled with lifeless eyes, and she spilled some tea on herself.
“Be careful, it’s really hot”, he rushed over and took it out of her hands. “How bout we let it cool down a little first”. He set it down on the floor away from the mattress, relieved she let her body plop back down, too much work to eat or drink tea. She had lost 10 pounds already.
He cradled her in his arms and looked into her chestnut brown eyes, his filled with tears.
She looked up at him with a worried expression,
“What whats wrong?”
“It’s just that I had a dream.” He looked away now at the wall. Crying. It was a beautiful dream birds of many colors it was breathtaking. She did not have the energy to question what he meant. Instead she began dozing off. His voice became the narration to her vision of birds.
Birds swooping down picking at cactus fruit. All of their glorious colors. Then she understood. Frank sat there tears flowing from his eyes moaning like a wounded animal. “Jackie do you know why I couldn’t tell you”? Because then you couldn’t rest and sleep so beautifully as you are now. He looked down at her “Jackie...Jackie he kissed her lips and trembled. I see birds. I see them all the time and there's nothing I can do about it. “I’ m sorry Jackie”, but she understood because she saw what he saw, she heard the echoes of the bird calls in the forest..