When Lake Effect took Bird Church, they asked whether it was fiction or nonfiction. I answered Fiction because I wasn't ready to own it yet as a thing, or things, that did, and do, and have, and will, happen to me, or in me, or at me, or from me, or of me. Am I ready now? Good question! This brief excerpt doesn't answer it.
Because muzak. Because it coils around the two of us, Jag and me.
Jag's on hold with Dish Network, gearing up to haggle over increased fees while I pay my due respect to his attendance of this task by anointing the cutting boards, oiling the wood with a basting brush. Kaydee lapping at the water bowl nearly four minutes now lifts her nose requiring more to drink, the way Jag's dad, Nels, when Nels too was dying, demanded ice cream. We gave him all he could have wanted, pint upon pint, the two of us donning boots those subzero evenings to buy Pumpkin Pie Blizzards at Dairy Queen, three for stacking in the freezer and a fourth for spoon-feeding. How I envy, now, the feasibility of the dyings' profoundest desires, their ready fulfillment, the lapping and cooing, the sturdy bowls that, brimful, meet them. My own desires are ragged, unplugged affairs, me sputtering, popping, lighting out. I grill Jag and accuse. I shriek and complain, won't leave well enough alone, am unlikely (unwilling) to ever learn how. It's a treat when I'm stable, both of us grateful, Jag more sanguine than I deserve. The way a sane person might, I lay the cutting board before me, dip the basting brush in olive oil, painting first across the grain, dabbing and swabbing, asking myself, "What are brush strokes supposed to accomplish, again? Will they make me more convincing? Authenticate me?" when something bright takes shape amid the needles of one of the pines out there.
"What's that?" I wonder sharply, the object like a country church viewed from a great distance along a long, hot road but not on a Sunday, no hats, no choir, just the sunstruck steeple shimmering. Where did it come from, who hung it there, the questions only in my head so it's only the dogs who prick up their ears to listen. They know the noise of the thoughts I need to stop having. They hear that first plaintive worry crack, like glass, then a splintering groan as the crack gives way, turning worry neurochemical.
"Who brought it?" I ask, shouting this time.
The little bird church isn't ours. I've never seen it before, that pretty spire twirling there amid the usual hamlet of seed trays, thistle bags, hoppers, suet blocks, and splayed, pronged oranges. I let the window blind drop and racing out the door in clogs am relieved to find my pretense of stability abandoned, my arms unconsciously flailing, the phone angling away from Jag's ear for a beat but him making a show of paying no mind, in hopes I'll ditch this emergency and saunter back to the tasks I've set for myself, the dogs keeping their distance following me because they distrust clogs.