What is it you plan to do

Man, to mangy, fat crow staring at him from the balcony: What.
Crow: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Man: That’s a trick question.
Crow: What.
Man: It’s a trap. Which reminds me, I was shopping for “miniature bear traps” online today, for reasons I forget.
Man: They exist.
Man: I mean, both miniature bear traps and my reasons.
Crow (patiently): Trap?
Man: Yes. There is doing whatever, and there is planning to do it. They rule each other out.
Crow (nods): Yeah I grok.
Crow (turns to face the autumn foliage, same as the man): This is what we’re doing, baby.
Man (stretches, winces): I explained to my wife yesterday why leaves change color in the fall and she listened to me patiently.
Crow: Wow.
Man: Apparently I hadn’t exhausted her goodwill. Or she likes biology.
Crow: You’ve known her for how many decades and you don’t know if she likes biology?
Man: Of course she likes biology. Who doesn’t like biology? I mean, she seemed to take a scientific interest in photosynthesis.
Crow: Ok.
Man: I just think it’s beautiful that the yellows and oranges are there all the time and we just don’t see them until the chlorophyll runs out.
Man: Also, the idea that trees take half the year off.
Crow: And yet they never travel.
Man: Traveling is overrated. Especially flying. No offense, I mean like airports, security lines, cramped seats.
Crow: I would travel if I had six months off.
Man: You don’t?
Crow: Oh hell no. Constantly flying around, you know? Between the dead and the slain and Odin and stuff.
Man: How’s Odin?
Crow: You’re Odin, you tell me.
Man (regards a tall tree, the root of which is being gnawed by a big snake): Hmm. Then what say the slain?
Crow: Living beats reflection; you’ll have time to reflect when you’re a lake.
Crow: Let me rephrase my question: what will you do now?
Man: Something wild.

The Chemical and the Chemist

The Chemical gets a call from his wife, the Chemist.
How old were you when your grandmother spilled (what did she spill? Boiling water?) on your foot? 7 or 8?
Boiling oil. I was 12. 11 or 12. Although, maybe 10 or 11 come to think of it.
So just a year or two before she died?
The Chemist is researching family history. She knows more about the Chemical than the Chemical does. The Carboxyl family, the Hydroxyls, the rest.
So my brother was 8 or 9, he says.
And how old was he when he ate her thyroid pills?
Younger. 5?
And that was after the mental hospital?
I guess? I was a little kid.
So was her thyroid problem diagnosed after the mental hospital?
I don’t know.
Maybe the thing with Amino…
And Sulfhydryl…
Was enough stress to trigger a thyroid storm or some other crisis… and she was hospitalized and got the electroshocks… and eventually a thyroid diagnosis?
I don’t know the chronology. And anyone who knows is dead, except one or two who were directly involved in the whole scandal themselves so you can’t ask them, and their kids are all younger than I was so they probably don’t know either unless their parents told them later, which is entirely possible, everyone’s parents told them more than mine told me. Everything was a secret and now they’re dead.
Maybe ask Phosphate or Methyl, he says.
They finish their conversation and hang up.
The Chemical gazes out the window. It is a crisp fall day but warmish, the colors are bright (chlorophyll breaks down revealing yellows and oranges, any trapped sugars might turn into anthocyanins for the reds) and crows are arguing over the borders of their territories.
Mellow music is playing on his computer. The YouTube algorithm has decided to serve him mellow ambient music today, which irritatingly is just what he needs. He is wired, as if he had drunk a lot of coffee this morning, which he has but not that much, not any more than usual.
When he leaves the office in two hours he will walk to the subway, past various things including the attacking crow. He thought she had mellowed out, she stopped attacking him for a while, swooping only, but yesterday she whacked him in the head with her wing again.
Boiling fat, actually. His parents had a broiler pan in the oven, a flat pan to collect bacon drippings etc and when his grandmother forgot about it and it started to smoke, he drew her attention to it and stood there next to her and told her to use the oven mitts, so she wouldn’t burn herself. Careful, Grandma.
And she put on the mitts and took it by one end and as soon as it was free of the oven it tipped and emptied the boiling grease onto his right foot.
She felt terrible and he felt terrible that she felt terrible.
When he finished screaming every obscenity he knew, he tried to comfort her.
In the hospital where he got a skin graft he had rubber joke vomit and tricked a nurse with it, who then tricked another nurse with it.
Sometimes you’re awake and feel alive. Sometimes you’re tired and feel dead.
Anyone who thinks they understand this world raise your hand.

The attacking crow attacks, crow real estate part 2 or 3

One minds one’s business.
One walks down the street to catch a subway. But the crows, so one tosses them treats and they follow one to the very edges of their territory for more treats, and into (maybe they are new arrivals and don’t know, or just hungry now in the fall) the territory of the attacking crow.
Words are exchanged in crow, on this sunny fall evening. Like, “fuck you get the hell out,” and “fuck off.”
Then it quiets down and one thinks it is over until one receives a blow to the top of the head, and feels the claws of both feet of the attacking crow in one’s scalp.
This is an escalation, this attack. Previously there was a whack on the head from a wing tip, then there was a body slam to the back of the head.
This here, claws, feels like an escalation.
Who knows?
At least it’s not defecating.
It seems desperate, maybe it has a nest close, but it’s the wrong season for babies.
??
It sits there on a telephone wire, watching.
One throws it some treats.
It watches.
One throws it some more treats.
Some people walk past, pretending nothing unusual is happening.
One turns and takes a few steps in the direction of the subway station, then looks back and the crow is checking out the doggie treats.
Ok.
“Don’t reward the crow for attacking you,” one’s daughter texts.
“I’m trying to make friends,” one texts back, “but I see your point.”

Norþfukr Family Tree

So my wife Alpha recently published a 240 page book on her father’s side of the family she had been working on for 9 years. It was warmly received by relatives, and now she has embarked on research into her mother’s side of the family, as well as my father’s family.
She was telling us about what she had already learned about my ancestors, the O’Livings.
“They were actually Vikings,” she said.
“Oh!” we said.
“That explains the urge to sack and slaughter priests,” I said, remembering the time a local priest made me carry sausages into the church in my pyjamas.
How the church had gotten into my pyjamas I’ll never know.
Alpha explained ancient versions of our name, and all the alternate spellings.
“The original name was Northfucker or something like that,” my wife said.
“I vote we change our name back to that,” I said. “We could spell it Norþfukr.”
Our daughters Beta and Gamma seconded the motion.
“Even better than changing it to Novak,” I ascertained. We recently decided life would be easier if we changed our name to Novak because that’s what most restaurants understood when we made reservations by telephone, to the point where we sometimes just capitulated and reserved tables under the name Novak, which has the big advantage that it contains no illegal characters (not everyone in Austria knows what an apostrophe is) and is immediately recognizeable. I had planned to adopt a friend named Novak as my brother. He brews beer at home, and often trades me some for bread I bake. Anyway, we decided Norþfukr was even better.
Although it would not actually solve the problem at all.
“A table for two for Norþfukr, please.”
“N- what?”
“Norþfukr. En-oh-arr-thorn-eff-yu-kay-arr.”
“Enoh-arr-uh…?”
“Thorn.”
“Thorn?”
“You know, looks like a sunset, turned on its side? Or a bald man sticking his head through a hole in a fence? Or… You know what, put it under Novak.”
“Yes, sir!”

Two tubes talking

deep inside an old radio
glowing faintly
a tube says, about
that meme you sent.
so true.
you can’t go around the anger
you have to go through it
feel it
yeah, says the other tube
also glowing faintly
a glow that starts out orange at the bottom
blue at the top
yeah.
listen to music that makes you mad
feel the anger, says the first tube
i’m mad at the car dealer, says the second
tube
maybe i’ll scream at him tomorrow
pick out songs that make you feel sad
and angry
and happy
and listen to them
you have to get out of your head,
says the first tube
and into your body

The haunted doorbell

this is the terrifying story
of the haunted doorbell
the weather here has been
real hot and dry
but lately it has been cooler and
wetter and today the
constant rain started
when the constant rain starts
i think of ray bradbury’s story
about astronauts on venus
in constant rain
the second thing that happens when
the constant rain starts
is our haunted doorbell starts
ringing
its creepy half-ring
my wife just called me at work
and said, it’s ringing again,
and she said, what should i do?
i said she should, first of all
put on rubber gloves.
i didn’t say, wait until i get home,
i said, put on rubber gloves, first of all.
then pry off the cover
there are no screws, it just pops off
but careful not to break it
then you want to unhook the two wires
there are two screws
loosen the screws but
don’t touch them
even with rubber gloves
nothing would happen, you would
just get a little shock
(a medium shock, in fact)
then when the screws are loose
pull out the wires
easy as that
she said she would wait until i came home
isn’t it too creepy, that
creepy haunted doorbell
half ringing all day?
i told her to call the guy
to look at the heating and he could
do the doorbell while he was there
she said, he’s a plumber not an electrician
but he could do two screws, i said
you can do it when you get home
she said

Let me tell you something

what was it
there was something
what was it though
dang
dang
was it something about a crow?
no
death maybe?
no
i stuck my nose in a spider web
while watering the thistles
that is how i discovered the
writing spider in the back yard
that wasn’t it, either
although it was the biggest and most
beautiful spider i have ever seen up close
and i mean up close
hm
i rode my bike to the train station
i will be retiring some day and
to save money i have been considering
getting rid of my car and riding a bike.
maybe that was it.
my bike is very old.
for a bike.
i used to run my daughters around on it
in a little child’s seat.
they’re all grown up now.
it needed new tires because the old ones
had rotted off
and kept going flat.
so i got cool new tires that never go flat.
and i checked the sky before
going to the train station
because it always rains when i ride my bike
but the skies were blue.
the first thing that happened
the chain fell off the front gear
i got that back on
then the tail light cover
fell off and clacked along
the street
i got that back on too.
my bike is a three speed now
because i can only shift the front gears
the back thing
no longer works.
but that’s okay bc it’s flat
where i live, the landscape.
when i told my family about it
my daughter asked
were you leaving a trail of parts
so you could find your way home?
was that it?
was it that my wife had to give me a ride home
from the station that night
because it was raining so hard?
?
i don’t think that was it either.
this is driving me nuts.