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     Louis was in the front of the store and Penelope was coming in soon, so I decided to take a cigarette break. Outside, the sun mercilessly penetrated my skin and broiled the parking lot asphalt. Cars in the back lot glittered. Commotion resonated from customers inside, matching the outside heat in some inexplicable manner. I listened to the monotonous drone of cars entering the Factory and leaving the Factory, the great ebb and flow of commerce at work.
     I lit a cigarette but between the heat and the nicotine, I couldn’t breathe. The cigarette smoke had to be held down, choked down, as though I were smoking for purely masochistic reasons. But without the earthy smell of cigarette smoke clinging to my cheap collar shirt and slacks, everything smelled of plastic, urinal cakes and fresh leather. The handicapped custodian with a sloppy grin and a gimp leg strolled by slowly with his trash can on wheels, the smell of shit wafting over me. He waved, as he always did, smiling. I suddenly wanted to have a drink with him, sweating under the relief of the shade. We could mumble to each other about our mutual work affliction like two worn-out Teamsters just out from the loading dock. In our hypothetical dialogue that would never be, we commiserated about pushing the carts back and forth, back and forth every day.
     When I got back inside, Penelope, Louis and Keys all stared at me with a hybrid look of horror and humor. I looked down at my clothes for a stain or something hanging from my belt. Maybe a shit-stained piece of toilet paper was attached to my shoe. I wiped my nose real quickly with my hand.
     Finally I asked, “What is it?” They didn’t answer. “Why are you all looking at me like I’m a  . . . a hairy spider or something?”
     Penelope shook her head. “Elsa’s husband just came in.”
      “Yeah?” I sat in one of the more comfortable swivel chairs. “What did he have to say?”
     Now Keys shook his head, softly laughing. “He said that if you give his wife any more trouble, he’ll kill you. He said he swears to God he’ll fucking cut your throat.”
      “What? He did not.” I figured they had the ace of spades up their sleeve and were running tricks around me for shits and giggles on a slow day.
      “Oh, yes he did,” said Louis. “He walked straight back here into the office and started asking where you were. We told him you were off today. Then he told Penelope that—how did he put it?—‘if that little shit of a punk motherfucker doesn’t stop giving my wife a hard time I’ll slit his fucking throat.’ And he ended,” Louis said, starting to laugh a little now, “by swearing to God.”
      “You’re fucking with me,” I said, beginning to believe them but not wanting to. They explained that Elsa’s husband was 300 pounds, maybe more, with an intensity in his eyes that could kill by cardiac arrest alone.
      Laughing nervously, Keys said, “He’s in Yard Dogs, man. You fucked with the wrong people. The Yard Dogs are crazy.”
      “Yard Dogs? What’s Yard Dogs?”
      “A gang,” said Keys, his face going straight. “An all-Samoan gang in Sendero Loco. They’re notorious for getting shit-drunk and beating the hell out of people.”
     Penelope asked me what I wanted to do about it. I told her not to do anything. Calling the cops or firing the wife of a Yard Dog, I figured, would not make matters any better for me.
     When I got home later that night, I grabbed a small suitcase that could double as a briefcase and started looking in the kitchen for viable weapons of defense. Seeing as how I didn’t own a gun or a machete, and couldn’t carry a bat to work every day, I had to settle for the foot-long steak knife in my kitchen drawer. But I envisioned the Three Hundred Pound Husband grabbing the flimsy steak knife clean out of my hands and snapping it in half right before my eyes. Then, while laughing barbarously, he’d grab me by my throat, pick me up and pin me against the wall, slowly killing me by asphyxiation. So I decided to hunt down my butcher knife as well. Still not completely satisfied, I grabbed a hammer. I stuffed all three of my newly acquired weapons into the suitcase like a rough-sketch caricature of some B-grade movie. I was scheduled to work with Elsa the next day. And her Three Hundred Pound Husband would be there at the end of the night to pick her up.
     Slowly waking from a long drunken sleep the next morning, I confronted my sense of drama in the mirror, laughed at myself a little, then picked up the suitcase and headed out. I walked into the store stealthily, head down and pseudo briefcase full of kitchen utensil weaponry. Elsa sat at the cash register watching intently, trying to make some kind of contact with me, her eyes both threatening and apologetic. “Oh, well . . . uh, hell . . . hello, Elsa . . . I will be right back and . . .” By the time I finished the greeting, I was already in the back office, staring at the suitcase and wondering if I was being reasonable or just paranoid. I finally unloaded the objects into my drawers for easier access, just in case I needed to pull a split-second Steven Segal judo movement with a flip and—on my ascent upwards—had to reach and grab a butcher knife while simultaneously hurling it into the chest of the Three Hundred Pound Husband.
     I kept a careful distance from Elsa in the front, heading off her attempts at eye contact and speech, while we each worked our separate customers. She seemed as uneasy as I felt, trying to shoot me awkward smiles on occasion. Hours of mindless routine numbed my anxiety somewhat. But because Elsa was working and the district manager was in the area, I had to keep my vodka in the car and even smoke outside. So I finally got up the courage to take a deep breath and move past Elsa, mumbling, “I’m just, uh . . . taking a small break . . .”
     Outside I breathed more easily, and the Three Hundred Pound Husband began to recede like a bad dream. Just connecting with the sky and the sound of birds helped keep my head level and appreciative of everything swirling around, real and still sacred, outside the iron grips of retail.
     After lighting my cigarette, I noticed the dead baby bird in the middle of an oil stain in the parking lot. Pigeons liked to nest in the roofing shingles that covered the outlet mall. Here and there you could see the nests, but you rarely saw the actual birds. They liked to keep to themselves, away from the hustle and commotion, coming out only to retrieve pieces of dropped pretzel or taco to feed their young. Worms were so passé. Maybe now and then they came down to retrieve a lost shoe string to help build their nests. They adapted.
     I saw what had to be the mother pigeon flying overhead, around and around over her baby, who had obviously failed in the first and most pivotal task in life—flying.  She circled in panic, horrified, as though trying to spin time backwards, to take it back—to not have cast her young out so soon. She flew around in a three-quarter circle, sat on the nest for a second and repeated the cycle. Maybe she too wanted to fall and die, but the immutable life-instinct of flapping wings kept her afloat.
     I wanted to pick up the baby and take it somewhere. But I didn’t want to cut the mother’s mourning short. Everyone had a right to grieve, even pigeons.
     One of the clerks at an adjacent store joined me outside for a smoke. His name started with something like a P, but I couldn’t remember exactly. It didn’t really matter anyhow. P gave me a nod and lit his cigarette, took a long drag. “You ever notice how cigarettes sometimes taste like Captain Crunch?”
     I told him I hadn’t, but that I supposed you could make the comparison. We both gave out obligatory laughs. I finished my cigarette and told him to have a nice day. He returned the gesture without noticing the dead bird or its mother’s tormented commotion.
     Besides the Three Hundred Pound Husband, I now had the pigeons to worry about. I couldn’t figure out which to feel sorrier for: the dead or the grieving. The dead was dead and had clearly suffered the final, most devastating blow. But the ongoing process of grief seemed unspeakable.
     While fetching a pair of boots for a kindly, rouge-faced grandmother, I sided most of my feelings with the mother bird. After all, maybe the baby bird just didn’t want to fly. Maybe, being forced out of the nest and into flight or death, it took a long look at its surroundings and announced:

Fuck this. It’s pure miracle that I’m here alive and everything, but a month ago I didn’t know any different. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend my days living out of an outlet mall shingle-gap eating pretzels and taco pieces, and endlessly tormented by vicious children with balloons. Whatever happened to trees and worms and lakes and ponds, the simple things? I’m not going tweet-tweet-tweet and flapping my wings for this. Oh, no. Sorry mother, but this doesn’t cut it.

DERRRR-OP! PLUMMET—             SPLAT!

     When it comes to the maxim of fly or fall, we too often forget there’s the possibility of an inherent choice therein.
     The rest of the day floated by. Only a few more customers walked in and out, and only one made a purchase. This was bad for sales, of course, but good for the employees. It didn’t matter to us how much the store grossed; we were paid the same. I continued to keep my distance from Elsa, walking in the opposite direction of her approaches, keeping my eyes down and retreating to the backroom when necessary.
     From the corner of my eye, I noticed her staring at me. I was straightening the shoes on the front display table, making them look nice and sexy. She kept her gaze fixed, though I didn’t meet it. But it didn’t matter; it was coming anyhow. “Gosh, you’re skinny,” she said. It seemed like a break-the-ice comment, and maybe that was simply the best she could do.
     I kept arranging the shoes. “Thanks, Elsa.”
      “I mean, do you eat right?”
      “Yes, Elsa, I eat.”
     Leaning over the cash register, she adjusted her glasses over her rodent nose. “I mean, you know, I just like to ask because I was skinny when I was your age. I was anorexic, actually. I couldn’t eat, you know? And nobody knew about it, but it showed in my weight. I always wished someone had cared enough to talk to me about eating disorders.”
     Was this indirect aggression? Was she trying to bait me? Maybe she really cared. I paused and stared at the shiny men’s shoes—our new model of dressy-casuals with air pumps in the soles.
      “I’m sorry to hear you were anorexic, Elsa. I saw this woman on a television special once. She was like 50 pounds, frail as a stick.”
     Elsa gave a nod of agreement before returning to idle silence. We worked like that for the next hour. Shortly before closing time, Dan dropped by from Shea’s Shoes with a nasty smile on his face. He found me filling the women’s aisles.
      “Shit, Scott, did you hear about Christina?”
      “What about her?” Internally, I thanked the gods of benevolent retail fortune for Dan’s presence. If the Three Hundred Pound Husband actually stormed in with his gang-bangers, I’d have another body to help me narrowly escape.
     Dan started laughing. I started to put a pair of yellow Mary Janes on the rack, thinking, Yellow? On Mary Janes? What is the meaning of yellow Mary Janes? Ahhh . . . Christina would wear yellow Mary Janes.
      “She’s pregnant.”
      “She’s what?” I dropped the shoes, suddenly seeing a little Christina popped out, running around the suburbs, working at a place like Shea’s Shoes, complaining about her boyfriend, only to pop out another one. Endless replications, all of them wearing yellow Mary Janes, all of it self-perpetuating, eternal, maybe even oddly divine.
     I protested, “But she’s barely 20. She works part-time at Shea’s Shoes. She lives with her parents. She has no education.” I could have gone on with the but she’s . . . but it was none of my business.
      “Yeah, man. And listen to how she did it,” Dan continued. “You remember her always talking about Joe, right? Well, I guess Joe was talking about not moving in with her and even hinted at breaking up. You know Christina needs Joe like a Ruskie needs vodka, man. You know that. Well, of course he didn’t bag it because she was on birth control for the whole three years they were going out. He trusted her and you know, as crazy as she is, I can’t say I’d do it any differently. Would you? So she stopped taking the pills and cranked up the fuck, man. And bang! She’s pregnant.” Dan started laughing again. “Isn’t that some twisted shit?”
     Although Dan and I joked about it, I couldn’t get the fear out of me. He didn’t recognize the danger but we were all potential Joes, waiting to be fucked this way to September Tuesday without any protection but our own social savvy and gut instinct. And that wasn’t much of a shield.
     After Dan left, I wished I’d asked him to stay. But after a brief mental flashback of his beating on the baseball field, I dropped that remorse. I had to check Elsa’s duties to make sure she completed them before I could dismiss her. She despised this: a younger, lazy bastard like myself making sure 26-year-old, capable and self-starting Elsa did all her chores before leaving. She didn’t like the hierarchy of the store, and I couldn’t blame her for that. Not for that.
     Just before closing, I positioned myself close to the backroom, and she asked, “So your friend’s pregnant?”
      “No,” I replied a little curtly, peeved by the idea of her eavesdropping, “She’s not my friend. She’s a former co-employee.”
      “Oh.” And we both stood there in silence. Then she added, “You know, I was only 20 when I had my kid.”
     I thought, Please, Elsa, please! Stop telling me these things. Don’t tell me you have a kid. I don’t want to know.
      “But it turned out okay.”
     Okay? You borrowed $300 from the store manager two days after you were hired. Your husband is a Yard Dog!
     That’s when the Three Hundred Pound Husband walked in and Elsa moved up front to meet him. I trembled, either in fear or simply because the man made the ground quiver when he walked by. I pretended not to be there while busily calculating the time it would take me to get my knife and hold it up before me like a cross to a vampire, warning the bastard that I’d do it, goddamn it, I’d do it. I’d shank him like a back-table jailhouse cafeteria stabbing, I’d . . . He suddenly gave me a jiggly nod of the head, Elsa waved goodbye and just like that, they were gone. I’d survived another retail day.
     I went into the back to have a drink, a smoke, and to finish my paperwork. But I kept thinking about Christina and her impending child, about Elsa and her child. I thought of their children lacking everything but shoes while Christina and Elsa grew old amid key selling points and special features, until their children took over. It was nasty, the way the bastards on the hill made crutches out of the leg bones of the legless, only to sell those bones back to them.
     Passing the baby bird in the parking lot on my way out, I didn’t know who to feel worse for: Elsa and Christina or their children. My feelings sank into the back of me. I looked up. The mother pigeon was gone, so I took out a piece of paper from my briefcase and gently picked up the baby bird.
     On the way home, I thought of different places to bury it. The more I thought about burial spots, the more I developed an inexplicable empathy for Christina and Elsa, and even the Three Hundred Pound Husband. I suddenly wanted to give them all something meaningful. Who’s to say that, at different moments and places, we aren’t all Christinas, Elsas, Joes, and Three Hundred Pound Husbands? All of us shifting from one side of the line of power in the sand to the other, falling back and forth like dominoes. An understanding of relativity begets more understanding, and so on, in an exponential formula that climaxes in a cosmic need to bleed for someone, anyone—everyone. 
     The empathy changed into guilt about the time I was burying baby bird in an empty field next to a creek outlet. I don’t know why I felt guilty but I did. I’m not Catholic or Christian or even religious in any way, but maybe everyone should seek some kind of universal forgiveness for their sins now and then. As much as we cry for ourselves, we rarely cry because of ourselves.
     As I threw the last chunks of dirt over baby bird, I listened in the distance for a tweet-tweet-tweet. But all I could hear was silence and the faint murmur of cars rolling by on the freeway in the distance.

     Back home and stoned, I watched the televangelist station because, for one thing, nothing else was on. Also, nothing brought simple pleasure to my heart like watching people touched by the hand of a white-suited, pious and plenty-wealthy preacher only to fall down to the ground, cured of their ailment or struggle. The best was when they shivered or shook, went into actual convulsions like epileptics exposed to light flashes. They cried, raised their hands to the heavens, moaned and chanted.
     No touching and falling this time, though. A Jesus-loving woman with make-up a few inches thick, and a Man of the Lord with a James Dean chiseled face, were in the underbelly of India, preaching the Word of God to the sick, sad and starving who lived in huts like packed rats. Of course, they might have found any color of Americans in the same kind of situation, but that didn’t sell as well. The two precious evangelists were not only shouting scripture from the rooftops; they were also raising funds for some unknown community gift. The 800 number scrolled across the bottom of the screen so we could call and contribute. At the end of the show, when they had reached their goal, they would reveal their godly gift to the television-viewing audience.
     I wanted to know what God had in store for these starving people who lived in the largest capitalist country in the world, these poor heathen Hindus who had done everything right but God. Leather-bound Bibles? I told myself not to be so cynical. Surely they were getting something useful. Surely. I waited and waited, watching the funds meter rise and rise. I smoked some more pot in the backyard, keeping my eyes on the television, waiting to see what mystical gift would float down from the high heavens to shake the masses of India onto their knees before a golden crucifix, thanking the Eternal God for giving them bread and life and joy.
     They didn’t get leather-bound Bibles. But neither did they get bread. They didn’t receive canned soup, wine, new homes, or a one-way ticket out of hell. They didn’t get a reprieve from the ongoing threat of nuclear war from Pakistan. No good crops, sanitary water or a sewage system. No vaccinations for their children.
     The two wide-eyed and grinning, white paper cut-out faces of God’s glory flashed onto the screen, anxious to reveal to the Christian afternoon television-watching and bon-bon eating audience their gift. The camera cut to a television newly installed in one of the huts. Huddled around the television was a congregation of Indian children, fathers, mothers, grandfathers—all of them watching intently.  But what were they watching? What was the meaning of this?
      “So,” said God’s own news anchor, “we were able to raise enough money to put a television into every home in this community and connect it exclusively to this network, so they can watch the Word of God 24 hours a day.” The female sidekick with eyeliner thick as cardboard nodded her head solemnly. The camera flashed back to Benny Hinn touching the foreheads of random Americans who would, as though following a teleprompt, fall to the ground in fits. Jesus, I prayed, at least get them a little high before they watch that shit.
     Well. Just another day at the office: American missionaries at work.

     The following day was unusually slow. It was just Victoria and me, with only a mall-rat straggler here and there acting like they were on the prowl for some serious purchasing. But they never bought anything, not even a pair of socks. Sometime during the afternoon, though, a small rush of customers came trotting in, all of them making purchases. Seeing the line from the back of the store, I made my way to the counter to open the second register. I informed the next customer that I could help him.
     It was Mr. Felts. I call him Mr. Felts because I didn’t know his first name. Nobody did. But Mr. Felts carried on a legacy of the supermarket whisper variety that plagues suburban towns with the cruelest of punishments: people talked about him, but never talked to him.
     His face was white, not the white of peace and tranquility, though, nor that of absence. His was a white of sorrow, that sorrow of knowledge that is learned but that
cannot be taught. In his eyes was that pallor of sadness found only on those with failed lives and no more chances. He walked head down to the register, his face full of a torment that eats away at you slowly, and kills you eventually.
     I asked, “Will this be all for you?”
     He only nodded. I didn’t push the socks or the belts or the shoe polish. I knew he intentionally came in on a slow weekday to avoid the merciless talk. The town denizen found refuge, perhaps, in the thought that at least they were not as deserving of pain as he was. But in fact, they were lucky and that was all. He kept his eyes down during the whole transaction, able to tell by my relative age that I probably knew. He bore a shame that would not recede by force of retail kindness. I looked at the shoes: a pair of cheap, brown clearance Oxfords.
     Mr. Felts’ son, Matthew, was only 15 when the final tragedy struck. He was first arrested at the age of seven for sticking a firecracker up a neighborhood dog’s ass and lighting the fuse. The dog did not die instantly. It cried along  the street, up and down, up and down, yelping continuously, lugging around a blown-out torso, confused about why his guts were spilling all over the street. Eventually the dog keeled over and started shivering, shaking, still yelping for help, though no help could be given. Then it simply died.
     The juvenile court reprimands—whatever they were—did not teach Matthew a lesson. At the age of nine, Matthew took his pet rat to school and—in an effort to impress his classmates—stepped on the poor thing. It oozed and goozed blood all over the place, its eyes still looking full of life but its body well and significantly dead. Nobody seemed impressed and some kids cried. But Matthew stood there with a slow smile and distant eyes, entranced by some elusive beauty that this massacre held.
     Not long after, at the age of 10, Matthew forced a girl named Amanda to kiss him. While holding her against a fence in the sandbox after school, he thrust his hands under her shirt. Then Matthew forced his hand down Amanda’s denim-jean pants, where her still pre-pubescent womanhood lay. He did everything he could, being 10, aside from raping the poor girl. She reported the incident, still unaware of the impact this event would have on her innocence and on her, not only then but in all her years to come. Matthew was expelled from school and placed under court detention.
     But a kid like Matthew could not be helped in a tank like JV, which could only exacerbate his sickness. Mr. Felts brought this point to court over and over again, pleading with the judge for counseling and reformation. But in this great land of grit, the judge would hear nothing of it.
     Judge Tillman spoke on the record: “If every child who came in here were given psychological aid for their ill-conceived acts, there would be no need for juvenile hall. Every child would go to psychological institutions, and those institutions would be flooded. By extension, Mr. Felts, if every criminal used their backgrounds as excuses for their ill-conceived acts, then there would be no need for prison at all. We might as well get rid of the whole notion of prisons. That is not an idea I endorse. Nor do our judicial standards. Nor does this great country. I understand that there are exceptions but these are
rare, as they must be. Your child, Mr. Felts, has exhibited extreme characteristics of violence and amorality, and I believe it is in the community’s best interest to isolate him under court detention.”
     And so Matthew Felts was isolated from the community for five years—in JV and restricted schools with behavioral programs that conditioned him to act for social rewards, despite Matthew’s disinterest in social rewards. Although Judge Tillman forgot to mention it, this approach was significantly cheaper in the short run than extensive psychological care. Those five years were enough time for those Matthew’s age, and around his age, to forget about him. At the age of 15, Matthew returned to the free world with anonymity and ambiguity. However, upon being released, Matthew one night visited the school where he’d previously molested now-insecure-and-anxiety-ridden Amanda. He managed to set fire to several of the school buildings. One of them exploded into a conflagrating tapestry, whipping the docile suburban night sky with furious prejudice, and sending into the still air a madness of confusion. Matthew left several clues that would immediately implicate him.
     After subduing the flames, the firemen left, tipping their hats to all the awe-struck housewives and children as they climbed back into the fire truck with their spotted dog and their toy-tin-siren. Then came the police, passionate and determined, pulling up their pants and scrutinizing the evidence. Cars slowed down on the road to stop and stare, fascinated by the creative destruction taking place in their otherwise plastic bubble of a community. After a good amount of news coverage from local media—which the school board did not endorse whatsoever—the smell of smoke still consumed the air and ashes danced around playfully, oblivious to any sense of loss or destruction, fear or tension.
     The police wasted no time reporting that they had a suspect. Everyone applauded them, and they applauded themselves. The evil boy who destroyed the precious school buildings was gonna get it! and all the decent denizens of the town watched eagerly  through the night with their proverbial torches and opinions on hand. There were more opinions than torches even. And when they found out it was Matthew Felts, they grabbed their pitchforks. Though there would be no need for vigilante justice, they felt as though it made some kind of general statement of their differentiation of species from Matthew Felts. But there were still more opinions than pitchforks. Soon enough, the opinions themselves became the topic of conversation, not the school or Matthew Felts. And the opinions grew fiery; debates ignited all over the county, the state, and the country about this plague of at-risk youth.
     At the height of all this, the police stormed into Matthew Felts’ house to make the arrest. What they found was Matthew Felts hanging by a rope from the chandelier, shirt removed and his pants soaked in piss and shit. Something was written on his chest. In red. Below Matthew and over to the right—by the television—a cat was sprawled out on the floor. A cat obviously dead, with blood slowly trickling out from what looked to be its anus. The police all grabbed their mouths, though mutters of Oh God and My God and Oh Jesus and Mary Mother of God—whatever God phrase they fancied—came out
anyway.  A couple turned away, walked away, not believing. One, feeling truly sorry, vomited. One of the muttering cops walked over to the cat to examine it. By the time he realized what had happened to the cat, another cop had read the message scrawled on the chest and belly of Matthew Felts.
     On the top of the message a line was drawn, pointing to his right, all of it crafted in lipstick:

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------->
YES                               I                            FUC  KED
THI S                                      C A T AND                   YOU
DON’T                          HAVE                 TO TELL
ME             I                            AM             NOT                             
A                CAT                              AND          I        KILLED
THIS CAT           AND          I                  AM             NOT           SORRY

     And that was that. Matthew Felts fucked the cat, killed the cat, and killed himself. He was not sorry for it and nobody could hold him accountable for it. Nobody could keep him from anything forever because he took it away first. The debates hushed as the funeral procession began, as the organ began to beckon and the dirge began to carry, and the eulogies were short and simple. Silence grew large in a small time; a full, voluptuous silence where opinions were rendered obsolete and morality grew mortal, where sinners and saints alike pondered Matthew Felts, never knowing exactly how to ponder.
     Matthew Felts perched in repugnance at the edge of his nest. He rubbed his eyes, and when forced to make that laborious commitment to instinct and living, chose not to flap his wings. As for as Mr. Felts, I could only circle around the scene of horror and give him his box of brown clearance Oxfords while he pondered whether to fly or fall himself.
     On my way home from work that night, everything seemed full of hope simply by logical necessity: if x alive, then y infinite hope, infinity alone as concept. Everything seemed light, everything floated. Lights advertising gas stations and late-night restaurants glowed with shimmering neon optimism, and silent proclamations were whispered about the final death and the finality of finality. Delicate whispers rose as loud as screams and the wind tasted sweet. Photons and neutrons blew through me and I took the long way home.
     Passing along the creek where the bird rested in stillness, I sensed the Great Machine at work above and below. The one that plows and pushes, recreates, sifts, picks vulture-like through the carcass, harnessing only that which can be seen for its work. All
else is concept; all other values are relegated to no value. Here, the dead bird lay in peaceful rest with meaning attached to it. But tomorrow the dead bird might be just a
dead bird. The day after tomorrow, the dead bird might not even be a dead bird. It might be a chunk of rotting flesh and withering feathers. The next day, not even rotting flesh and withering feathers. Even the trees, creek, grass, wind, breath, heart, fire, proteins, colors, beckonings, love, hurt, water, passion, trance, and commodity will not have names.
     I pulled over to smoke a cigarette and trudged over the muddy field. I felt both infinite and vulnerable while searching for the marker where the dead bird lay. When I found it, I stared down at a diametrical duality.

  1. the dead bird rotting with maggots, infested, all distinguishable parts of its body becoming nutrients for the soil
  2. bird essence; bird form; the conceptual and consummate bird; cosmogony and the role of the bird as sign and symbol

     Why had I come to this burial ground? I put my ear to the distance and listened for cars rolling past along the freeway, trajectories set, origins unknown. But all I could hear was the faint flutter of a tweet-tweet-tweet.

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Excerpt from Outlet