Am still quite busy, but have been finding bits of fiction sneak into my head at the oddest of times: while driving down the road on my lunch hour, in the twilight moments of waking, in the shower, and while talking to co-workers. I keep my notebook close, and pray that I can read the slipshod purple ink when I have the time to finally, finally mold the words into form.
The Far Away issue is coming along, and I think it looks pretty, and I hope you will too. I’ve extended the publication date to leap year day (February 29th), which I think is wise. I’d rather it be gorgeous than quick.
My grandfather, whom I wrote about here, passed away in his sleep on Thursday night. Rather than attempt to say something big and bold about him I’m going to share a story.
When my sister was in college someone gave her a mated pair of canaries. She named them Mimi and Puccini, inspired by her favorite opera, “La bohème”. Puccini was big, bold, and sang fiercely until she covered the cage with a scarf at night. Mimi was timid and barely chirped a note, and endured overly amorous and often violent affection from Puccini. Her neck and back was bald; the feathers had fallen out from the stress.
Barbara felt terrible about the situation. We joked about avian domestic violence; what was the ethical, legal course of action she should take? It was decided to give Puccini away. to save Mimi’s poor, sweet soul. My grandfather had expressed fascination with the noisy bird and loved the way he sang. So Grandpa took in the brash and bold and chauvinistic Puccini, and Mimi was left in the care of my sister.
Mimi was fine for a while. She even began to sing, hesitantly at first, but within a week or so her songs were even more pretty and powerful than her estranged ex-lover’s, who was living comfortably in my grandparent’s house and now went by the name of “Freddy” (Grandpa didn’t like the name Puccini). A few weeks later, though, and it was obvious that Mimi missed her man. She began laying empty eggs and laying on them, eggs that we took out of her cage and hid away from sight in the garbage before she could see what we were doing.
Barbara took Mimi back with her to college, where Mimi tragically took a turn for the worse (much like her tragic, operatic counterpart). Worms were found in her water, and my sister let Mimi out of her cage and let her fly around in freedom before the inevitable happened. I can’t remember if this happened during winter or spring, but for this story’s sake let’s say it was spring, and that the trees were blooming with pink buds and that Mimi’s buttery yellow feathers gleamed in the warm sunlight against a crisp blue sky.
Puccini, or “Freddy”, died at my grandparent’s a few months later. The bird had filled their big, quiet old house with ridiculously arrogant song. In his grief, Grandpa put the bird’s small, stiff body in a wooden box, and buried him in his beautiful, immaculate vegetable garden in the backyard.
One of these days I’ll tell you about my Grandpa’s garden, how juicy and warm the cherry tomatoes tasted straight off of the vine, how crisp the cucumbers were, and how pretty the days were that we spent on the soft grass.
Grandpa didn’t simply bury Freddy/Puccini, though. He erected a small, white, wooden cross and carefully wrote “Freddy” with a black Sharpie pen down the length of it. In the grass next to the cross he pushed a small American flag into the earth. It looked like a tiny veteran’s memorial.
A few months later another canary was acquired, which Grandpa named “Freddy II”. When that bird died a few years later, Grandpa gave him a proper burial, just like the first Freddy. He once again pushed into the earth a white cross and flag. “Freddy II” was inked down that second cross, and the two graves sat side by side in their sunny patch of garden.
I miss him.