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H5N1

By Howard Waldman

Madly bare-armed despite flocks of pathogenic birds overhead, the others on the supermarket parking lot goggle at my tight-buttoned overcoat, gloves, surgical mask, and deployed umbrella. Eighty degrees in the shade, yes, but we'll see who's crazy. Haven't they read of the danger of mutation and the crossing of the species barrier?

Back home with food for two to withstand the summer siege, I discover my wife and her things are gone. Because of her cat of course. He devoured birds and his love bites would have been mortal. He lies deep in the garden far from birds. He didn't suffer. Why couldn't Mary understand?
 
Burning the dangerous feather-stuffed pillows, I scorch my hand rescuing a long blonde hair, all I have of her now.

Summer, pigeon-infested, drags on.

My doors are locked, my windows shut, the phone finally disconnected, the letter box no longer explored.

TV recounts the synchronized progress of terrorism and the deadly sickness. Their women are encased in wise burkas: total protection. They will inherit the ruins of our civilization.

Last night melancholy cries ended a dream of the two of us in a long-ago wood full of innocent birds, mottled sunshine in her long hair.

I stand before the closed window and see distant V's of honking geese cleaving the dawn sky. Why am I crying?

 

Born in New York but long a resident in Paris, Howard Waldman taught European History for a France-based American university and later American Literature for a French university. He has published two novels, Time Travail (Jacobyte Books, 2001) and Back There (BeWrite, 2005) as well as a novella, Judge (Hachette). A third novel, The Seventh Candidate, will come out in late 2006.

Howard's last work for VerbSap was Plant No Trees In The Garden.

Photo "Sunrise With Seagull" courtesy of Cheryl Empey, Seabrook, TX.

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