Sunday, June 25, 2006

Matters of the Heart

He looked at the raven, perched on its branch in the leafless tree. It looked back, and quorked at him. Beneath, behind, woven into the quork he heard the question. "What will you do now?" The man adjusted his coat, ran a hand through his hair. The hand slid into his pocket. "Wait. And be there. I am hers, as she is mine. Our threads have interwoven, and I will be there for her when she needs me. Because right now, that is all I can try to do. That, and love her." He glanced down, deep in thought. A second raven joined the first. Claws scraped bark as the bird secured his perch. The two examined the man, and he, only partially startled, examined back.

The birds were large for their kind, and their eyes shone with an old intelligence. A hint of having seen too much in too many places. The first to speak ruffled his feathers with a slight shrug, the movement expressing distaste with the world. The newcomer preened for a moment. Another quork. "It is a long time to wait. The time will pass slowly." The man gave a small grimace. "I know that. But I will wait, as she will wait for me. We are together now, and this will not change." A pocketknife appeared in his hand, dull black, and twisted and turned in his fingers. He appeared not to notice.

With a screech the larger of the ravens flew from the branch and dove for the man's face. Its claws scratched bloody lines, almost taking the man's eye, but he reacted with surprising speed, and a small rain of feathers graced the frosted earth. The bird landed on, gripped the man's shoulder. "Good memory. I will be your reportory of knowledge long forgot in these modern times. You will need my help, Child of Man. And I may have need of yours."

"You and she will find one another again, there where the sea meets the horizon. You have told her so. We shall make it so. A journey lies ahead, as much of time as distance. Let us guide you, as once we were guided by Wodan in his search for wisdom. Love is not an easy thing to find, nor an easy one to lose. Yours has been found, and now needs safeguarding."
No longer restricted by clumsy quorks, the two ravens claimed a shoulder each, silent now that their advice had been given. The man gave each a look and then, resigned, began walking. The direction didn't matter; it was all featureless forest anyway, apart from the tiny path he now followed. He would get to his destination eventually, and be reunited with her in his arms. He smiled, and thought of her... and the journey seemed lighter.

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Mal made anothert tour of the home, checking on various cases as he made his rounds. Checked off that each resident received his evening medicine, stopped in a few rooms to chat for a minute or two about the day, the weather, how this season's sports teams were doing. Mrs. M still hadn't shown up by the time he slotted his time card and signed out for the evening. He wrote a quick report, left it with the front desk for the night shift.

The afternoon and early evening sun gave way in the south to a bank of thunderclouds, dark and menacing on the horizon. Rain before the night was out, he was sure. Even as he watched, lighting flickered through the storm and a cold wind picked up. Reached up to adjust his glasses and checked the his messenger bag was closed all the way.

The first drops were just beginning to fall as he unlocked his apartment, the crescent moon of previous nights now hidden for the duration of the storm. The place wasn't in the best part of town, but at least management kept things tidy, and the rent was cheap. Mal never saw his roommate. A few years older than he was, the man made an art form of entering and leaving with minimal noise. Paid his rent on time, and kept his portion of the kitchen tidy. No reason to complain. Mal threw together a quick sandwich, checked his email as he ate. Nothing new. An hour later he was in bed, fast asleep.

Mrs. M wandered in the next morning, looking slightly confused and partially dazed. Her pupils were dilated, and she made repeated mention of “that nice man at the cozy house.” After a checkup by the resident doctor she was given a sleeping pill and led back to her room with orders not to leave the premises unaccompanied.

Bobby was in charge of the front desk. Jittery, his cracked Garfield mug close to hand. The desk a scattered mass of papers, pens, inkwell – where did he get inkwells from, and whatever for? - random office paraphernalia that always seemed to accumulate around him no matter where he went.

“Hiya Mal. Might wanna be careful... Abrahams is up in arms over the whole Mrs. M debacle, and looking to tear somebody a new asshole. Coffee?”

“Thank you, no. Which cup are you on? Never mind, it doesn't matter. Did she ever show up?”

“Like a lost kitty comin' home. They tranq'd her and locked her in her room. She's out like a light, shouldn't be up again til tonight. Supposed to have an hourly check anyways though, and since you're the first one here, hey look! You get to look in on her.” Manic grin as he took a swallow of coffee.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Mal wandered the halls, mind wandering as he passed the large windows, shafts of late afternoon sunlight lighting his face in random bursts. It was strangely quiet for a Sunday afternoon. Most of the residents were in their rooms, asleep or doing whatever it was that they did when left alone. He came across few visitors, eyed them warily with trepidation and tried to look busy. His white coat was wrinkled and creased; no chance to iron it the past few days. A strain of piano-laced cabaret music fled down the hall ahead of him from Mr. Poransi's room. He paused, his tiny food cart wobbling to a stop ahead of him. Burst of too-loud laughter from the entertainment room. Must have been watching the Oldies channel.

The walkie-talkie at his waist crackled, and he jumped, startled.

"Mal, did you sign out Mrs. M? She's not on the premises, and wasn't supposed to be out today." Evie at the front desk. Worrier, too organized, anal-retentive. Good attention to detail. Too much stress. Snuck pills from storage on the late shift.

"No I did not. I haven't seen her today either, maybe she went for tea again? Ask Carl, he may know. Will call if I see her." Sighed and glanced at his watch. Another hour to go. The retirement home was quiet, a rambling old estate surrounded by a few acres of park. Family was always welcome to visit, but so few really did that there was little point in setting official visitng hours. He felt sorry for the residents, who had little in the way of entertainment and less in love and support. The staff was stretched thin these days, a blessing in disguise for him since it let him grab extra hours to pay for expenses. He ran a hand through his brown hair and set off to find the wayward Mrs. M.