Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Work of Fiction #1--The Canary, Part Two: Red as Roses Are

That afternoon Anthony set up Lucy’s cage in the corner of his bedroom. They hadn't moved in any of the big furniture into the house yet. It was all still piled in precarious stacks on the front porch, leaning against the railing, and strewn across the front steps. The rest were still incarcerated in frumpy tearing cardboard boxes scattered aimlessly around the living room and kitchen floor; leaving Anthony with only his mattress and a duffel bag full of clothes. 

He ignored the canary for most of the afternoon as he and his father moved boxes into the house. Sometimes he would peak into his bedroom to see what the bird was doing, but it was rarely doing anything at all other than sleeping, its little head tucked oddly backwards under its wing almost as if its neck were broken. After a while Anthony wondered if he should make sure it was still breathing.

He peeked into his room. The sky was pink and orange outside his window, the color of rainbow sherbet ice cream. A cascade of evening light showered the bird cage encasing the canary in what appeared to be robes of pure and twinkling gold.

Anthony took a step closer. Besides the sparkling light from the window, the canary was completely limp, a golden statue, perched almost like a saintly angel beseeching God. 

Anthony approached the cage, peering in between the spindly golden bars. Could it really be dead? He thought, taking a closer look. He had only just bought it this morning. As soon as he’d gotten home he had made sure that it had enough food and enough water.

That night Anthony lay in bed staring up at the ceiling. He wondered about the canary sleeping in the corner of his room; silent, unmoving. He thought about it all through supper, he could see the effigy plainly in his soup, and when he was brushing his teeth, the image kept emerging before his eyes in a flash gold, the canary, its neck wedged abnormally backwards under its wing, like a plastic child's toy.

Anthony thought about the bird most of the night as he tossed and turned under his covers. Every once in a while he would sneak a glance over towards the cage. The canary was always sleeping, its head turned backwards as if its neck were broken, and a penetrating chill would clamber up his spine making him shrivel back down underneath his blankets.

It was early in the morning when Anthony finally drifted off to sleep. He closed his eyes, and it felt heavenly.


The sound was like a gunshot, ricocheting  through the house, rattling the windows and slamming his bedroom door shut with a thundering blast.

Immediately, Anthony's eyes shot open. He ripped the covers from his body and sprung from his mattress, his heart racing.

The canary--Lucy--as the goblin Plancka had called him, looked at him, pausing tentatively, his body stiff, feathers on end, like an alley cat poised to attack. It hadn't moved for so long, and now suddenly Anthony could tell, the bird was glaring at him, angry, furious straight into his eyes--through him, really, and out on the other side. They were glowing, beautiful, red as roses are. Slowly the bird opened its beak and Anthony could see its slithering black tongue, and he watched as it began to scream.

The sound was shrill paralleling the allegorical shriek of a fledgling banshee. Anthony dropped to his knees and clapped his hands over his ears, the sound reverberating up the very nods of his spine into his eyes as if he were being repeatedly stabbed over and over with a hot fire poker.

He crawled in a maniacal daze across the bedroom floor, cradling his face in his hands. He could barely see, his eyes stinging, streaming hot tears until he could barely breathe.

He reached the door, raking at it with his fingers until he found the knob. He flung it open, and dove for the other side, slamming it shut behind him killing the sound almost immediately.


Anthony had never heard such thing before, not like this, not so--abrupt. Breathing hard, he clutched his belly, sick rolling back and forth, slowly making its way up his body. He rested his head against his knees, black spots engulfing his vision.

He didn't know what was happening. The canary--its eyes, its eyes were pierced into his memory; red, glowing. And that scream.

He waited until his vision cleared before he lifted his head.

Anthony dragged himself into the bathroom. He snatched the hand towel from the bar next to the sink and pressed it to his face. He was afraid to look at himself in the mirror, so he stood with his head down, his fingers trembling. He didn't want to see the blood.

But there it was, dribbling down the side of his wrist leaving a rosy red tear trail down his arm. He watched as a single bead dripped from his skin and fell to the white linoleum floor. The image reminded Anthony of the American film,  American Beauty, where the red and the rose pedal were used as piercing objects to signify a person's life force inside them.

It was almost as if his mind had separated from his body. No matter how much he did not want to look into the mirror, he felt his head slowly rise and his eyes find the polished glass.

Anthony had not cried in a very long time, not since his mother left his dad four and a half years ago. He remembered it as if it had happened an hour ago, the pain in his chest, in his heart, the tightness, like he was being squeezed by a boa constrictor. He felt it now, slithering up his throat and settling into a coiled lump. As he gazed at himself in the mirror he could see it plainly, the grief flowing from the creature nestled behind his eyes.

He touched his cheek, his tears soaking into the pads of his fingers; rosy red.

Anthony wanted to throw up. He clutched the sides of the sink and wretched into the white porcelain. Gulping for air, he swept the splattered orange sick from his cheeks with the corner of his shirt sleeve, and buried his nose into the towel. 

In his mind he heard the bird shriek, and he knew that as soon as he opened his bedroom door the canary would be sitting there, perched atop its tiny swing, its head twisted backwards as if its neck were broken, as if nothing had happened.

To be continued...

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