BY DAVID MENEAR
This story was previously published in Carte Blanche/QWF – September 2013 and Lynn Crosbie’s HOOD – May 2015. Copyright is held by the author.
SMOKY CLOUDS are stretched as thin as Saran Wrap over a tired November moon. White Birch takes his calm sweet time, big boots sloshing and crunching over the just frozen field towards the welcoming, warm yellow lights of the wood frame house. It’s a calm and quiet evening. No north wind scraping the dry and empty branches together. No distant dogs barking or howling at who knows what. There was only the sound of his steady footsteps that seemed to thunder down like he was King Konging his way along to a terrible task.
White Birch has decided that without further hesitation or trepidation, that he will kill Richmond here tonight.
His path was as straight as an arrow, but his mind floats around like a dandelion spore in a baby’s breath of a breeze. He thought about how wrens will teach a secret song to their newborn nestlings. When Mommy bird has flown off to find a beak full of bugs to bring back to her hungry chirping young, another brand of bird will visit the wren’s nest, and leave her babies there like it’s an ornithological day care centre. Fluttering back home, Mommy wren sings the passé partout song that the little ones have learned and must now repeat. Chirp the wrong tune and you’re up a tree without a Mommy.
And, as he so very often did, he wondered about his sister. Wondering again, if she really had to be sacrificed for the good of himself and his brother. I don’t mean sacrificed like the virgin on the great grey stone altar with Satan leering and rubbing his sticky hands together in crude anticipation. His mother was doing her damnedest, broke and on her own with three kids in the mid-50s. Sister Windy was never not in trouble. Ruined by the tender cruel tragedy of a child’s innocence suffocated. Help didn’t help. She went her own way. She went the wrong way.
Looking down upon his mother there in the Elder’s Home, seeing her lost and scared in her death bed at 88, he felt a kind of horror that aged him, scared and saddened him. She rocked a doll in her arms, and over and over she said, “I lost my baby, I lost my baby”. He knew she meant his sister Windy.
In the stark stink of glue, shit and bad booze, he curled up, somehow happy most nights as a boy with the warmth and love of his younger brother. They took turns reading books aloud. The stories made him strong. He knew then, that he could be a hero. That he would be a hero. He can slay all those swirling black ghosts. And still he fought them.
He was just standing there in that field now as solid as cement, like some gigantic king of garden gnomes. Light was seeping over the horizon. White Birch then began to make out the bats. Hundreds and hundreds of bats, strung out upside down, sleeping side by side, all along the thin branches of the spare trees. Some devils dirty laundry.
Richmond seeing that no one was there, turned away from the kitchen window closing the blind behind him. Slowly, other lights went out throughout the house, like big cats closing their amber eyes to nap. Tattered curtains of thin clouds parted away from the dim spotlight of a now low moon. White Birch turned in his frozen tracks towards home.