by Andrew Calderone
Winter’s wrath is forgiving for those with feathered wings. No chirp or song comes close to flight in the long and treacherous season. I am too soon to forget the long future and work and rent and duty and saving and food and roof when I think about the journey south. Each trip around the sun returns me here: stay or go, persist or flee.
Blue jays remain in royal hue to pop against the powdery white. The faithful bare-breasted, black-beaked nesters are either brave or stupid on their boughs. Pigeons flaunt rainbow plumes along their necks and posture exotic while roaming the salted sidewalks lined with strip clubs, pushers, and users. Pure snow turns dirty in the city. Drunk and dying in the sand preserves a dignity that a cold, narrow alley lacks.
Each winter away risks the next to be suffered below centigrade. I am denigrated by my countrymen for not celebrating the north in all its transmuted glory.
The cold comes. Power fails. The phone goes dead. I killed it. The flight attendant asks to see the death certificate. I oblige at thirty-five-thousand feet. To think I envied feathered wings makes me blush as I soar in the flying feat of engineering I scarcely understand. Beer for now. Rum for later. I buy a small bottle at the island airport to nip at in the rear of the beaten-up bus with lowered windows. Onus flies out the window. Rum flows down the hatch.
Bags are down; a buzz procured, and I am not used to an empty stomach yet. To the beach I go for a fish sandwich and sunset. The surfers cut and carve over the reef. The next day I join them on rented board and borrowed time. Only with salty hair do I return the surfboard to notice the beauty collecting fins and leashes. I envy the sun for kissing her so long and luscious.
Music blares in a musty, beachfront club playing host to bare feet. She takes my hand and leads the way to a bamboo wall where my sweaty back is pressed. Her body is forced against mine until whatever divides us is imperceptible. I forget where she ends and I begin. Memory blurs up to the day the bump arrives between us. A baby is coming with snow in its veins; in its wings.
Her mother vows to kill me if I depart. Her father is unknown to her. The fear of death does not allay my concerns; the joy of life confirms my stay. And thus, my nest is built on southern bough; for the north now refuses us.
About the Author
Toronto is where Andrew Calderone calls home. The voices of his fellow Canadian authors laid the foundation for his style, but the literary traditions he’s explored living in Ireland, Central America, and the Caribbean have likewise inspired the stories he creates in film and print.