April 22, 2021
It was a long, long time ago, in that part of the distant past from whence come memories that may have been but dreams, drifting like gossamer ghosts, fleeting and ephemeral.  She is screaming.  Screaming at him?  The boy assumes she is mad, and in a different way than he could possibly know, she probably is.  Screaming for him?  To the boy this seems unlikely though he is sure he has heard her words correctly.  “Come quick!  Come quick!”

The boy has almost outgrown his first tricycle.  He has learned, painfully, that he must take care negotiating curves and corners lest his favorite toy, his only real joy, jackknifes and spills him over the handlebars.  The hallway through the cramped, upstairs apartment, from the living room to the screened-in back porch, is straight.  But it is narrow with several protruding door jambs at the intervening rooms, and the old wooden floorboards are polished slick with age, the cracks between them rutted from years of usage.  The boy is torn between the urgency in her voice and his fear of crashing.

Halfway down the hall he yells.  “I’m coming!”  Loud and clear, but drawn out.  It is his learned response to her loud histrionics, one he has discovered somehow soothes her angst and her constant impatience with him.  Past the two bedrooms, past the walk-in pantry where the door is always closed to keep the heat out and the food cold, past the tiny bathroom, rubber wheels clacking along the grooves in the wooden floor.

He passes the kitchen door, slowing and glancing in.  She is not there at the sink where he usually finds her.  He pedals on, quickening his pace when he hears her scream again.  Her voice is closer now.  She is out on the back porch.  This surprises him, in an unexpected way, and her actual words are lost in the confusion he feels as he parses the tone of her voice.  She is not angry.  She sounds . . . excited!  He thinks he hears . . . joy, but it is hard to recognize an emotion he has seldom heard.

The back porch, built on as an addition to the house, is open and airy, unlike the old red brick duplex itself, and there is a panoramic view out over the fading neighborhood.  The porch is screened all around to keep out summertime bugs.  The door is narrow and there is a small rise up to its threshold, but the boy is well practiced getting his conveyance over this last obstacle without mishap, for he comes here often.  The porch is his refuge, his safe place.  A place where he can be alone.  She seldom comes out here, but here she is now, standing close to the screening, peering out into the neighbor’s garden, looking up into the leaves on the fruit trees there.

It is springtime.  There are berries on the trees.  The morning is warm, but it is not yet humid.  The trees and the berries are lit by the rising sun.  As he gets off the tricycle he gazes up at her, desperately trying to read her face.  She is pointing.  He follows her finger.  He sees the berries are red.  Ripe.  He sees movement amongst the leaves around the berries.  There are birds there.

The birds are yellow.  A soft yellow fading into tan.  Perhaps they have some red too, but he thinks it may be juice from the berries.  His eye pauses on the black outline of their faces.  He hears the delight in her voice, and his eyes immediately flick back again to the face he knows so well.  He sees things there he has never seen before.  He hears strange words which for him have no previous context--“nomadic,” “wax,“ and “masked,” but he remembers most that he may have heard the word “beautiful,” a word he has never heard before from her, this cold and distant war widow ensconced in her cocoon of grief.

It is the beginning.
Cedar Waxwing--1000
Cedar Waxwing--1000