The fully fledged cardinal was proud to have company. He was half the size of the big males that show up in the dredges of winter but just as bright with a wispy crown. He slung a low slow myriad across the baron street ”Tweet –tooting” a web of all the ideas I might have. He was the chime wind. It was before six a.m. and I was up walking awake. I couldn’t sleep and the quiet house had a guest. I couldn’t grind coffee or do the dishes and Lake of the Isles was singing. The dogs had been let and put back to sleep, so I walked.

I’m about five blocks from the lake. It was cold and the drizzles lingered. I had a hooded sweatshirt, shorts and my socks covering my feet clad leather sandals. I took drags of a smoke enjoyed with the heady effects of the night before wine buzz. I watched my exhales hit the wet air, trickling down like the insides of a fresh draught Guinness. The cardinal exhumed remnants of my own youth despite the rational pleas of my adulthood to return to the warm bed. I walked and watched him talk to the busy robins that poked through wet lawns. I resounded his calls and he tilted his head toward me. He was hopping my normal route and my insides glowed with the realization that I was on a clue.

I don’t know if it was all the acid of the early nineties or my haunted ancestry that provided me with a sense attuned to a significant order of all the things in the perceived world, but paying attention to the little things sure means more. I suppose that if I generalized it all I’d say that it was all meant to be.

Most folks think me a jovial sort with a boisterous attitude toward the world. Putting up a wall or facade is a recognizable defense mechanism in basic form. I implement such mechanisms as a part of my whole. When people get too close, I push them away. If they come back, they’re my friend or lover or stuck with me sibling. I push and they love, ‘cuz they see all the pain and sorrow I make their love into. It isn’t as resentful gruesome or passive aggressive as it may sound. Really, I just pick and choose like anyone else would and then I lay down my cards and say,

”Stay or go.”

When they stay I love them.

The cardinal took a turn when I saw the lake. I could see the rain drop poke-a-dot wakes in the still water while my gait stretched toward it. I crossed the walkway down to the orange mesh construction fence of the renovation project. A sequined green head of a mallard cut through the water, Vwake ribbon of tow. It was swimming toward me and being so alone with myself let me be. Then I heard the splash.

I turned to see an enormous wake in the reeds, it bubbled around twenty meters to my left, then another to my right, then another by the duck. The carp were breaching.

Almost meter long, brown, dirty, bottom feeder carp were launching out of the water. Their splashes caught my attention so I missed the next. I trained my eye on one spot and waited still. Then I saw the fish bound above the surface, twisting body with a slapping splash. My awe resonated to my feet and I felt the depths of the sponge ground rattle.

All the splashes made me realize that this wasn’t a clue at all. It was merely a combination link semblance fragment. A note without a chord. My disappointment faded when the mallard half heartily finagled his way through the fence and sauntered up to me in a crescent moon under the full moon that hung behind. The duck stood a few meters from me and let it rip.


”Shush” I hushed a finger to my lips, not wanting to wake the million dollar neighbors.


And then I heard the flapping.

Over the stone bridge that framed a reflective circle of water on the south side of the lake, came a drove of five black specks. They looped flapping by in a circle around the hanging pines of the isle of the lake. They quacked and flapped twice around and skidded in feet first, splashing five bachelor green headed mallards, curls on tails. They swam in disrupted alphabets.

Often, the banes of existence hang all over me like cobwebs. I don’t want to move or be. The whole deal is too heavy and I might as well be lugging a torn bag of bowling balls down the pebbled asphalt street. I really want to be as happy. I want to be honest and tell someone that the whole ache of being alone is really my only pleasure. I’m just afraid that they might tell me every doubt I’ve ever felt and not see the blurry truth through the fog like I like to see it.

I rubbed my eyes and turned around. The sun had crept above all shadows and I knew I could go home. I walked and listened to the birds and looked through all the gray windows of the houses I passed. I was all the memories that those houses saw and all the small songs the little cardinal sang for me.