My father rented an owl (+other shorts) by Conor Quinn

My father rented an owl for some goddamn reason. He set it up in the kitchen and we watched it for an hour as it swivelled its head and glowered at us with angry round eyes. It did little besides that. One by one we left the room.
My father lingered the longest, trying to look like he knew what it was for. He sat and read the papers and smoked, waiting for it to start. Finally he began to look at us angrily, like we had brought this useless animal into the house. I don’t even think he returned it. It might still be up in our attic.

***

I woke her by muttering in her ear and pressing my thumb against her temple. After a twist and a groan the eyes on the front of her head opened and begin looking at my face. I giggled and bound off the bed. The glacier floor sent a ghastly freeze up my spine. I murmured a little prayer to my penis, floating over my head, and then the cold toad slinked off of my toes and everything fell into place, ready to push forward.
She followed me out of the bedroom as I descended from the landing. There were no limits to my black heart. It had devoured the universe.
At the foot at the stairs I paused to sniff the roses stolen from her mother’s grave. The damp dawns of her departure lingered within their tightly folded petals. Their silent bobbing stalks nodded in assent, confirming all I did was right. No more fireworks now, just the slow nibbling forward.
As I prepared a special meal I heard her move above then descend the stairs with deliberate steps.
It was Shakespeare’s birthday, I told her. I suggested we eat cat food to mark the occasion, then get drunk and walk around. She thought this was laughable. What would people think?
I had other suggestions, but they all began with drunkenness. She understood and yielded her consent. I cracked open a fresh bottle of vodka and we passed it back and forth like a sacrament. When it was finished we flung open the door and lurched out into the morning.
Someone caught my eye, we locked gazes for a moment, then I broke away and moved my eyes to an innocuous spot. Then I frowned. Then I told her how I felt about the Nazis. Then we visited a war memorial. Then they visited other local sights: the flower market, the lake, the home of a child molester. Then we each bought two litres of cheap cider each. Then we trespassed the grounds of a girls secondary school and drank the cider as the moon rose. Then I had to throw up. Then we visited her friend but his mother wouldn’t let us in. Then we walked two miles home.

***

I bought some meat from the local supermarket the other day. I never buy meat, I’m not sure how to cook it. I’m always afraid of catching salmonella or something so I always burn it to a cinder. It’s hard to eat but I’d rather be safe than ill, you know what I mean?
So I was getting a lump of beef and some spuds and other vegetables. When I got to the counter I smiled at the checkout girl. She smiled back and said “Good evening.”
“Good evening,” I said, “do you ever touch your tits and think about when you were a baby?” She didn’t hear me properly so I had to repeat it. When she understood she went red and pretended like I wasn’t there. I kept smiling, waiting for her to answer but she wouldn’t.
After I paid I waited at the door, staring at her but she avoided my eyes. I left feeling offended and swore never to shop there again.

***

I swear to all heaven, the whispering fictions I gather to adorn your waning memory will never bewilder, like the logic of poetry, nor will they clothe your feeble wonder in the fatal organs of delusion. They will only raise your passion for communication, or lay to sleep the pain of self-preservation.
Add to this the abundance of vile beauty and the miserable rhythm of language, and a fossil of security will hold together the naked corpse of your being. Your famished instinct for manifold error slinks off to twist the roots of solitude.
But, no matter what mysteries we intone, the evolution of experience will exhaust all song and fiction. The seclusion of wisdom no longer saves, it only watches.

***

HERE we are at the gates. Low houses decorated with a black enclosing wall. Our horses’ hooves sink deeper into black things above a city of coal. The land follows a lacework of which follows a fire. The gloom of barricades where fighting must have been destroyed, after fire and all-pervading ashes. We are at one with the ashes, which make our faces tingle.
The leaping dreams; the sky glows; fragrant hunters command. The soft doorway dreams. This wild regret moves a few straggly beggars snivelling in the stale material of curious debris, binding and formed of the double triple gates. Colossal black mass of ruins. A city of barricades where fighting is all that is left. We are wading, stepping upon the corners of an infinite labyrinth of all-pervading relics.
I hurtle through the ruins of this life we all have adopted. It is no accident that modern education does not teach us the true aspect of life. O they aren’t interested in anything less than regret. I laugh and I cannot leave town.
Behind this bare song, I sit. Does the cold flame strive? Sky tight and empty, quick sparrow. The blunt shell spinning, supple but loose. Angry, she bubbles, with pink pools. The weary fox soars when leaden seagulls command. The queen crawls. The monk comes to the water.
Path gnarled and dismal. Not dismal, not gnarled, I speak.

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