(but clouds got in my way)
Horace pictured here sticks with his own kind, and squawks like an encryption.
Not quite at the eleventh hour, but trailing the other entries, Eli Fang’s submission as the last of our finalists in our Wingnuts contest was nesting in my inbox this morning after a brief flight. A mystery…Eli’s story refers to Fire Mountain, which is a neighborhood a scant three miles from the Towers that still are–for the next five days at least–A Word with You Press.
Eli? Who are you?
You live so close to the hub of literary en-devour and yet we have not met? Is Eli Fang a pseudonym? I hope you will come introduce yourself on Saturday at the Hacienda of Victor Villasenor at 4pm, where the winner of our contest will be announced at the Third Annual Editor-in-Chief Surprise Birthday Party and Wet T Shirt Contest. (pot luck, byob, live music–and maybe a chance for you to fly away with Horace…check your horacescope). We are going to try to podcast the event, by the way, for our friends who live on other planets. But if you are local, please join us.
Here is what Eli offers the coffers today:
By Eli Fang
Fire Mountain overlooks the pacific ocean. On top of this suburban hill I stand in the cemetery where my wife of forty years is being lowered into the ground in a casket. Our gathering looks suitably mundane. If it were a perfect scene it would be raining, but being coastal Southern California the weather has only granted a mildly morose sea layer overcast. Although those around me are my family and friends, they seem alien, fake players, playing roles. I wonder if each, like me, is thinking, I should look and behave like someone at a funeral. I have a strange lightness in my feet that causes me guilt because surely I should be heavy and weighed down with my grief. I’m noticing things with intense detail. Across the green yonder of the cemetery a nebulous patch of blue billows into the gray sky, and from within it come ravens. A flock, no, not flock, the term is . . . . unkindness – it’s an unkindness of ravens. I almost smile at the aptness of the term, for I know these birds, these black-hearted ones come to visit me in my grief.
I was on a construction site discussing the project with the contractor. It was a mountainous, rural community. A few of his crew milled around performing various work tasks. Against the treed hillside a drama of nature was being played out: A hawk had downed a raven and now stood above the injured, flapping, black, squawking mass. Three other ravens, flying companions no doubt, had alighted a short distance away and were facing off the sleek predator. They made short flapping runs toward the hawk and its prey, their brethren, but the hawk stood its ground rearing up, catching the wind on its wings, presenting its talons.
One of the construction crew decided he wasn’t going to stand by and watch the injustice. He ran up the hillside waving his arms as he approached the hawk. The three ravens scattered, and eventually the hawk took flight too, giving up its prey.
We resumed our talk believing the scene concluded. A minute later the crew member returned from the hillside looking perplexed, and somewhat breathlessly told us, “I shooed off that hawk, you know, so it wouldn’t kill the raven, kinda thinking I’d help his buddies in setting him free. But, when the injured raven took off, it was flying kinda cockeyed. You could tell it was injured. And then his buddies circled down and they took him down and just started ripping him apart. You know, I don’t think they were trying to set him free, they were just fighting the hawk over food.”
So yes, I know you: the black-hearted ones. Living moment to moment with no time for love or sentiment. If only I had wings I would fly up there and be one amongst you to spare myself the pain that love, sentiment, memories and other human weaknesses inflict. If only I could be like you. One moment living for no other reason but to play on the thrilling windy currents, the next moment to lustily satisfy hunger by feeding on whatever presents itself as a tasty morsel. Sure, if others of my kind are around to play, to swoop and feign with, why not? Take enjoyment from the experience of them, roost, keep warm and safe in numbers. But should they present weakness, even a moment later from being my frolicking friend, then tasty morsel they become. No moralizing, no sentiment, barely memories. If only I could be like you instead of this weak human thing wracked with the self inflicted pain of sorrow. If I were like you I would land on my dead wife’s coffin lid with a cushioned thud, and, after cocking a dark eye at the startled gathering, perhaps issuing a defiant caw, I’d rip the coffin lid asunder, pounce down onto her corpse and feed greedily, lustily, peeling flesh from the bone of her I roosted with so long, her I swooped and feigned with in our flight of life for 40 years.
Alas I don’t have your strength and being human conform to my kind’s weakness, suppressing my natural urge to scream my anguish into the sky, I respond to a condolence with a mealy, “Yes, she’ll be missed greatly,” and look over the shoulder of the enquirer at you, the unkindness, fading into the gray.