“A Zoo Parting” (excerpt)

(copyright 2011)

The rookery when she arrives there encloses her. Always in her own world, she nevertheless finds herself eerily alone in what was once, way back in her girlhood, young womanhood, a haven for ducks and mute swans, pigeons of course and fox squirrels that let you feed them. She follows a path through scrubby untended brush attentive to her stomach and her breathing and an occasional chickadee and stops on a platform of limestone a dozen paces long that appears to float on the murky water, she sees a few mallards but no swans, not even Canada geese, where are they she wonders, they used to be here by the dozens. She feels quite suddenly agitated, the scene isn’t the way it used to be, something’s different, the whole scene, she wants to remember, it’s all scraggly and empty, where are the trees she wonders, where’s all the shade. There used to be woods here, oaks beeches, hickories and laurels, big full maples, even some thick birches here and there along the water’s edge. There were bushes to nestle under with your boy where to the soft murmuring of a variety of ducks you could grope and giggle and pant to your heart’s content until you heard approaching voices or swishings of grass or . . . the boy, what happened to the boy, she tries to think, she wishes for some Black Velvet.

The trees are sparse now compared with back then, almost all of them grown since her youth, she feels no nostalgia, just a bit of perplexity. She takes a few steps to a wooden shelter in the old prairie style, a holdover, it was there in her romping days, she’s glad to see it, she sits on a woodslatted iron bench to allow thoughts to maybe take shape and scans the dense reeds that extend outward from the pond swamplike and the broken canpy of young hickories and maples, a few thin birches. The place used to be a waterfowl odeon filled with a wide range of quacks and honks, now it’s silent, even the ducks keep to themselves. She unzips her purse and reaches in and withdraws a small shiny object, it’s a pistol, a Ruger 380, she looks at it then seems to study it for a minute or so, switching it from hand to hand feeling its weight, just a couple of pounds. She sets it in her lap and gazes at it, all black steel, shiny, lethal. She feels detached. As the minutes pass the gun loses outline and dimension on her worn wool slacks and seems just a blotch. She has no concern that someone will appear on the path to her side and witness this tableau with alarm.

Abruptly her head twitches, just slightly, like a spark, and her heavy eyelids yawn wide, veins taut and fragile. Inside her sodden head, still a bit dizzy with the morning’s allocation of whiskey and beer, she suddenly feels touched by a familiar calling, soundless and empty, that (      ) and that (      ) and that (      ), that joyless voiceless evocation thrumming softly in her hollow mind, intended, if intended at all and not just rising as a random beat from a capricious mental bongo, for someone something somewhere, but trapped and hurting and powerless, and ultimately shot through with sadness and resignation. She sits there at the brownishgreen water’s edge under a fastchanging sky her hands limp alongside her gun, feels tears coursing down her cheeks and dripping onto them. All she can do is shake her head listen to the emptiness gaze at the pondwater. Let it play out. It always did before.

Something whizzes past her ear and splashes into the water, her heart skips,, she feels the sounds, sniffs back a sob, doesn’t flinch. In here head, in her being, the calling has ceased. For now. And maybe forever. Maybe this is the last time she thinks, she always thinks that, she always has a nice big drink to celebrate that cessation, but of course there’s no bottle around here, this fact is confirmed by a quick survey of the area, the hard bench she’s sitting on, the stillopen purse beside her narrow hip, the limestone surfaces, the water still rippling from the object that just missed her ear. She stares as if from inside a cocoon at the lambent wavelets, her mind starts sliding forward, water she thinks, water — water its just there it never strides water, it doesnt seek, its just there, always there, it falls and it seeps and it lies there, it trickles and flows, it swells and recedes with the moon it rushes and ripples. but it never strives. it never tries to be more than what it is, as an acorn or an egg or a child or even the earth does, it just is, its just there. and its never faceless either, sunshine is just there too but its faceless, pleasant inspirational but faceless and water? green or blue or oily or scumcovered it always has a face, its in a place, in a bathtub its the same as in a mountaintub or a deserttub, a tarn or an oasis or an eave, an old horsetrough. a toiletbowl. when its flushed its no different from a stream dropping down a cliff into a cold mountain pool, and when youre flushed down the toilet or you jump into that icy water naked and scared, whos gonna hold your hand.

She looks down at her hands cradling the Ruger, picks it up with one of them and uses the other to release the safety, she knows well how to use the weapon, knows the damage its little cartridges can inflict, has during brief sober intervals once a week taken advantage of policesponsored clinics on a suburban practice range fully aware that the day’s approaching to fulfill its purpose, to kill someone in defense of the life she seems foreordained to survive no matter how miserable and meaningless whether she wants to or not. She sets the gun back down and wipes her right eye still wet with the heel of her hand and the left eye with the back of her wrist, the sun shines forth through a fresh dispersion of clouds and deep shadows form on the ground under the trees, reflections of the trees shine in the water as if by magic. And then she feels a shocking thudding pain exploding in her left rear shoulder and doesn’t even hear much less see the source of the pain as it thumps to the ground and bounces only once. Her upper body doubles forward and the gun nearly falls as she instinctively reaches with her right hand to soothe the searing pain. She feels wetness on her upper back and thinks that’s the first time he’s ever drawn blood, her eyes search dartingly and jar wide open as they spot a heavymalleted meat tenderizer at rest a few feet behind her on the limestone floor. A meat tenderizer she thinks.

She gathers herself grips the gun hard swivels her head. A sharp intake of breath. He’s there. The sonofabitch is there not ten feet away, off to her side, another first, he’s never directly confronted her before. As always he’s absurd . . .


4 responses to ““A Zoo Parting” (excerpt)

  1. This excerpt leaves me wanting more —either before the time it describes or after. Having someone shoot at her just heightens my curiosity. Wonderful and frightening it seems so real.
    I hope to see more of this soon.

  2. The pain is first and does her in as she doubles over. She has the gun but is already on her way to powerlessness as the pain will not be comforted. She sees another horrible weapon nearby ” he’s absurd ” she thinks. What does she mean ?

  3. Hi Ann. Thanks so much for your responses. This second one gets me to thinking that I should do the whole story, which is pretty long and will take a number of installments. But for you I’m willing to do it. The story’s in two parts, the first of which involves a male and the second the woman. They share certain traits, circumstances, pains, and a past, and at times they
    seem to merge. It’s a deeply psychological story with surreal elements. I’ll be glad to do the whole thing if you’d care to read it.

    • Wow ! Quite an offer ! It sounds like a great deal of work and time and time is really precious as we age, isn’t it though ? I love reading your writing so all I can say is that you should do what you need to do first and do what is best for your creative life. I imagine a talent such as yours needs to be cared for.
      Thank you whatever you decide.

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