picture window
len kuntz

Sarah left earlier. I heard her heavy footfalls on the floor above me. In my mind I traced her movements – precisely, I believed – from the coffee machine to the kitchen to the refrigerator to the sink to the bathroom to the shower. I lost her for a while until she left the house for work. After she’d gone I tiptoed up from the basement. I don’t know why I tiptoed because I was alone in the house. I skulked into the bedroom that I used to share with Sarah and I knelt down on the shag and pressed my cheek to the sheets on her side. They were no longer warm but nevertheless I picked up a hint of lanolin and almond scent, which became the ingredients of my morning’s dismantling. I cried tantrum-hard. I twisted the sheet ends in my fists until the cloth ripped.

Now I get a boiling cup of coffee and let it burn my lips and gums. It feels like delicious torture. My teeth start to smolder from the heat and just as I find a piece of paper to write Sarah a note someone throws a hard object at the picture window and I jerk and steaming java splashes over my hand, scalding me.

I expect the glass to be cracked but it only wobbles. I go outside and see the culprit: this hairball cluster of what used to be a robin, one wing torqued stiff like a bent toilet brush, its tiny bird feet gone or sucked so far into its gut as to be invisible. I think about picking it up and wrapping it in newsprint and burying it back where we keep the garbage and recycle cans but I don’t do any of that. Instead I go inside and pour more coffee and then the next bird crashes into the window, only I’m watching clear-eyed as this one kisses it hard. That’s the problem with having windows that are too clean: it’s as if nothing’s there, no barrier or separation, while in the end it’s the very thing which does you in.

Now a smudged streak the color of strawberry jam mars the glass, left of center. I don’t bother getting up. It hit so fierce the bird had to be dead. Besides, I don’t feel like moving. I sit there staring at the smear of blood when the next bird bangs into the window. It’s a wet, soupy blur of brown, so I can’t tell the type, but what I do know is that this one’s dead, too.

Almost rhythmically, every twenty minutes or so, a bird slams into the picture window. Once two birds Kamikaze together and I think how cute and interesting that is. I wonder if it was some sort of lover’s pact they’d made. People are known to do anything for love. I have to remind myself that these aren’t humans. By this point I’ve been adding bourbon to my coffee and I’m on cup number whatever, yet I’m not hallucinating. This death is the real thing.

By the time Sarah comes home I imagine there will be a small heap of dead birds, maybe enough carnage that it will reach the bottom window sill. I could jump on top; pretend it’s only a mound of fallen maple leaves. I did that when I was a kid. I could add my body to the others and let Sarah sort it out for herself but I don’t because they say suicide is an act of conceit, one of the most selfish there is, and I should know. My father’s brains got washed off the den wall and then painted over with two coats of ocher flat, but I still see the wall as freshly blood-splattered even though I haven’t been in that house for more than a decade. Sarah says that right there is my problem – that I can’t let go and yet I won’t talk about it. She says it has leeched into our life no different than asbestos or invisible toxins from contaminated canisters. She might be right. My judgment’s been off for a while now. Any guy who can sit on the sofa watching birds crash into his picture window has got issues.

Finally, though, I feel a twinge of ambition. I get up and rinse my cup. I find my coat and cram the bourbon bottle into the breast pocket, straining the satin lining until a seam rips. I take the top blanket off Sarah’s bed, hold it to my face and nose, and inhale one last time. On the way out, I place the quilt over the murdered mass and I walk down the long drive. I don’t hear anything. I don’t listen and I don’t look back.

All content remains the creative property of its author.
Cover Image - Licensed under Creative Commons.