… of the Frost Queen and Her consort,
the Earl of Autumn.
They say Her Worship is the polar bear’s pajamas. But the Mister, He’s not so much, being Her mister-right-now, not mister-right. It’s a sinister business, if I may beg your pardon, but I predict She’ll be with Winter before long, Whomever that may be, as sure as the world spins.
As delicate as a silhouette against a shade, it draws the eye. Are we voyeurs to witness a leaf slowly shutting down, its life draining away to the greater tree, dreaming a blaze of sun-burnt color? Is this a guilty intimacy or a sacred sharing? Or is it after all only tomorrow is another year?
A drama fruit, a diva fruit, the apple of my eye?
The social gossip of courtiers… we heard it on the grapevine… which way’s the main stem… it’s the happening scene… the carnival crowd, grifters and peasants… in this strange, strange land where even the area codes are alien and beg repeating.
Our old web was never worth all that much. Mom always said that it never caught anything but dust and Dad and Dad was barely enough to sustain a clutch of eggs. You’d think a window web would prosper but no, it was a waste land. I had a whole passel of sisters when we hatched, but when you live in a desert, you make do. Between Mom and me, my sisters lasted a while. Dinnertime was always a family affair.
Now nothing is left. Time to move on. Thanks Mom. You were great.
The pigeons were having a bad morning. It was a smallish flock but they swirled above the trees, above the courtyard and out of sight to return back looping and dodging and dancing in a running, fleeing ballet. They were terrified. A raptor, a big one, possibly a osprey, I don’t know: I didn’t see it, but it almost got Dick — as if being in the presence of a monstrous eating machine were not terrifying enough.
Dick was an older, genial pigeon and he was good. He was often the first to spot a predator. He was fast, agile and attentive to the flock, so much so that the others gave Dick slightly more regard than they gave to his neighbors and so he would often end up its lead choreographer. Like many male pigeons, he was a bit full of himself when it came to the ladies, but Dick always had been a comely lad. If you had to lay an egg, you could do much worse. But an osprey almost ate him.
It wasn’t just fear that lit the pigeon afterburners — and believe me, they were moving at a lively clip. It was also pride. Dance is an integral part of being a pigeon. It isn’t just a means of individual expression but a way of making communal decisions. And of enforcing them. For dance is also a means of defense. Predation is often a dance move, usually coerced by the predator, who relies on a repertoire of coup de mains for quick kills; for as hangry as it may be, it doesn’t want a fight or even an uncontrolled collision. These can have consequences for the predator too. Yet even when the flock is not successfully maneuvered by the raptor, the flock will sometimes sacrifice one of its less well regarded members, maybe a no longer entertaining bully but more likely some one unaesthetically sick or disabled or incompetent or even just a stranger. Rock doves are pacific and artistic birds encumbered by deep and ugly intolerance adapted to a world where every one is a critic and “thumbs down” is more than a critique’s rhetorical flourish.
But an osprey almost ate Dick. The nerve of this cannibal ave, this discredit to the Pandionidae, this flying spawn of satan, this barbarian theropod! Nasty m___________! They flew fast and low with tight acrobatics, not just in fear but in a defiant exhilaration: “You think you’re that good, osprey? Show us some fancy dancing coup de main. Show us if you’re really hungry. Show us what you’ve got.”
Oh, the egg came first: There being eggs long before there were chickens, long before there were indeed dinosaurs. Eggs! Gleaming with an intelligence that is beyond autistic in focus, a sociopathic revolutionary move-fast-and-break-things intensity, laden with life’s magic entropy. Eggs! We eat children, don’t we?
The tattoo’d egg was a marvel to behold, each illustration enthralling the eye until it writhed into life, telling a story– no, becoming a story: for a moment, for an hour, for days or maybe even a lifetime until it is over and naught but a second has passed…
It begins with breakfasting on eggs. Two fried eggs under melted cheese and salt and pepper and sage, fried yet still runny perched atop sourdough bread. That moment of anticipation just in front of that first fragrant bite: Let that be the sustained drone, that first harmony of the day’s opening bars, only a few beats, until it rests in the bitter satisfaction of coffee and cream.