Academic journal article Hecate

Nine Days

Academic journal article Hecate

Nine Days

Article excerpt

Today it is winter. The houses close like clouds. And that sweet steam, how it drifts in from the unfilled swamp. Without our fence we get the thick of it - in the summer we were killing flies and now it's just the muck from the wetland in our noses. The flowers in the kitchen and in our room've gone bad though Richard managed to put sugar in the water, their leaves curl, their petals brown at the edges. Last night the highway was an endless light beyond the darkness of the grass. We sat up in bed like old people or children. When the wind blows a direction you can hear the trucks and cars slowing and starting again. Otherwise it's just the television's flicker like pigment against all the windows. The sound of our staying still.

I had turned away from him on the bed and stared out at the pomegranate that tapped gently on the window of our room. The wind groaned outside and then the tree was insistent, banging its scarlet fruit against the glass. In the morning, bloody, clotted prints, like paint on a fist, would mark the pane. The wind dropped and then rose again, suddenly, outside.

The body in the kitchen was almost featherless when I found it. Already pasted to the floor with the blood. There's black and white and grey bits of down that swirl up in great loops when you move through them, all the way down to the bedroom and along the hall. They're all over me now - on my underpants and hair and clumped between my legs. The ducted heating slows and stops and then turns itself on again. We don't do anything and on it goes on and on. The space between one heartbeat and the lack of another.

The body heaved and its beak quivered, our eyes looked at each other as its heart shook like a rattle in my hand. An aeroplane shuddered the windows and the wineglasses. The cat's bell tinkled in its fur as she circled me with the bird. We all shook there. On the floor under my hair the chick rested in a knot of feet and flesh. Its smell was close like an outside birth. Earth stained and wind flattened. The cat circled going ca-ca-ca. Their jaws hung. And some howl came from me. The bloodied ball kicked a leg the colour of ripe fruit.

When it was dead I thought how small it looked. How different to the other ones with wingspans and massive claws that scratched the lawn outside. It's vicious the way they eat and wipe their beaks on the power line and eye off our heads as we walk. The cat may have risked her life to kill that bird for me. On the floor the dust had began to gather. It's a slow endless movement from roof to ground in these houses and in the tight gap between the stove and wall beads of grease dangle like web. Janine doesn't find them. She moves past on bare ankles and earrings and hands. Only a week ago she was flapping the mop over that bit of floor telling me that she'd had her Aden in the time it took to clean our house, and with less pain. I watched the water spread in pale circles over the floor and tried to imagine it. Now feathers stick to the bird blood and my blood and to the milk - a new white blood. They gave me an ice pack for the stitches that I forget to change. It swishes when I move.

When I opened my eyes it was afternoon and for a moment the sun came through the window and onto the bed. I thought it must have been Cara crying that woke me. Small wild chirps that came from very near and then moved further and further away. At first I didn't know what they could have meant. A mother might have. My eyes hurt and I forgot what I had heard until it came again in the eerie light. A crying out. And I knew that it was her on the end of the bed, calling to me when I couldn't move. The cat came, I watched her circle with her great tail lashing her sides and felt a moment of relief when the crying grew louder and then suddenly stopped. It started up again but at intervals down the hall. I could barely hear it - I could pretend and go back to sleep. How guilt hurts!

When Richard and I were learning each clunk and scrape of the house I thought how I could never get used to it and hate it as I had with our rentals. …

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