Smoke at both ends

by ivanhope - February 15th, 2011.
Filed under: Main Artery.

"Still life with rooster" by Louis Ducos du Hauron
[Still life with rooster, by Louis Ducos du Hauron, 1869]

Lost and profound, the two sit amidst the wide spray of chatchky half-memories. The boy can’t take his eyes off the beak: the brightest splash of sunshine yellow he’s ever seen. The elder speaks over his circling thoughts. She’s talking about porcelain eyes and lacework hems. It’s the bird that has the better story to tell. Perched on the shelf, just behind her whispy glome of errant hair, all color and curve and in your face spirit. It stands out from the line of fragile ballerinas and cottage families like a good blast of cigar smoke caught between layers of saccharine perfume.

“Where’d that one come from?” he asks, cutting her off mid-anecdote. Now he’ll never know which is her preferred style of miniature button.

“Oh, the spring dancer. That’s one of my favorites. I found her–”

“No, the bird,” again he slices with an embarrassing lack of delicacy. But it’s crept under his nerves. He has come to the home for a week now; his community service is almost up. He has to know.

“The rooster?” she composes herself enough to ask. There’s a sudden flush to her; the eyes are still murky, but now with a whiff of dream.

“That was my first pipe,” the woman says, finally. The playful vitality of her voice stealing the boy’s breath.

She stares at him, her challenge of a smile spanning the three-score years that separate them.

The glass rooster stands bright and proud, crowing over them both.

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