Friday, 01 April 2011
In the Darkness of Night, All Birds are Blackbirds
By Eleanor Gang of Cassandra's Tears
No moon illuminated the garden, the only sources of light were the pinpoints of fireflies flashing for their mates — or the decoys that made meals of would-be suitors — and the eyes of the cat as it stalked through the underbrush in search of its own nocturnal nosh.
Louise sat on the porch swing and pulled her shawl closer around her shoulders. The sun had set hours ago bathing the yard in pinks and yellows then slowly, colours had faded and the sky had gone from blue to mauve to silver to black.
There were fireflies in the woods and fireflies up above; the former winking on and off, the latter twinkling in their distant constellations.
It’s getting chilly, thought Louise. I should go inside, turn on a light, wash up the dinner dishes, start on my mending. Still she sat. The cat materialized in front of her and rubbed its dew-laden fur against her shins. She reached down and scratched behind its ears. It dropped something at her feet and she could barely see the offering of a mouse, its neck broken.
“I’ve had my supper, Puss,” Louise said. “You eat it.”
Puss picked up the small limp body and carried it to a far corner of the porch to consume it. Louise looked away even though the darkness hid the carnage.
She gazed up at the stars and felt small and helpless and lonely. Once George would have sat here with her, pointing out the constellations, telling her stories about Orion chasing the Pleiades or Pegasus throwing off Bellerophon as he attempted to storm Olympus.
He would have pointed out the Summer Triangle, the Eagle’s Eye. She looked for the red star that was Antares but couldn’t find it. She looked for George among the pinpoints of light but he wasn’t there either.
Oh, George, she thought. You weren’t supposed to go without me. We made a deal.
The cat finished its meal and came and sat next to its mistress, delicately washing paws and whiskers. Who would have thought such a fastidious, affectionate creature could dispatch small woodland creatures so efficiently and cold-bloodedly? A little Grim Reaper.
At home, does the gatherer of souls take off his robe, hang his scythe on a nail, put on a woolen sweater and sit on a rocker by the fire, then put his feet up and relax from a hard day of reaping?
Does his wife bring him hot cider like I used to bring George? Does he have a cat? Louise reached down to scratch Puss again and was rewarded by a lick from its rough pink tongue.
“I’m going in, Puss,” she said, “it’s cold. Are you coming?” She got off the porch swing, which creaked under the sudden shift in weight and for a moment she thought George was beside her in the darkness.
No. It was just darkness. From the apple tree a night bird sang. A blackbird, for all she could see.
[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]