The moment he throws the first jab, he’s conscious of a songbird out in the yard. As he feels the jarring impact and at least one of his knuckles coming apart, he imagines the bird trawling the very latticework of spring for a mate, indifferent to this uncoupling of some other kind of couple.
With his next punch, a right hook, he feels something break on her face, perhaps the left orbital bone. Her face. A face he’s gazed at many times over the decade of their marriage, struck by wonder at the finesse of its beauty, its uncanny loveliness. This face he is annihilating.
When she raises her arms to protect it again, he rears back and kicks out with ferocity. Hears a bone snap in her wrist.
She screams, which enrages him. Guilt is her only weapon now, and he will disarm her.
Outside, the cherry tree trembles in a late-April gust, and a flurry of pink blossoms fall. The songbird is unfazed. A distant ice cream truck plays a reedy variant of “The Entertainer.”
The darker tip of a white arrow in the blue suburban sky marks the passage of an airplane. He thinks of families taking spring vacations, happy and bickering—jovial, aggravated, thrilled. He wants to cry. Or to follow its crosswise imperative.
But he isn’t done yet.
Another sound slithers from her ruined mouth. He guesses “please,” but it doesn’t matter. He kicks her there too and either breaks her lower jaw or shatters most of her teeth; he can no longer tell specifics.
Ruination is his only goal, blood laws his only mandate. The simple edicts of dismantlement.
He’s forgotten why. And any regret at this juncture is wasted; you can’t retrace steps through a carnage swamp.
Fairness too plays no part in this. Size or love or memories shared make no difference. Nothing in the insensate world has relevance. There is only the reduction of something once worthy into something less so—a slick, shambolic downgrade.
Violence wearing its shame face.
When he is done, he returns to the child’s bedroom where two smaller yet equally wrecked bodies leak alarming fluids on the beige carpet, and the faint pungencies of human meat and human waste reach him.
Fighting his gorge, he retrieves his phone from the bed, enters the main bedroom where he takes a couple more items from a rolltop desk in the corner, and leaves the house. The songbird is silent. The ice cream truck gone. All the sounds of earth seem muted. He reads the last text on his phone.
– Will b gone by the time u get home. Taking kids. So sorry –
The sky is empty as a blind man’s stare; the cherry blossoms cluster against its chambray deadpan, pink on blue. No plane bisects it now, no means of escape, no eleventh-hour redemption. Limping slightly, he climbs into his black Lexus, winces at the stab of pain in his hand, and heads for the airport anyway.
A former youth worker who has spent roughly half his life in England and the other half in Canada, David Antrobus now writes and edits in a freelance capacity. He has written music reviews, articles, essays, creative nonfiction, and fiction for venues as disparate as The Georgia Straight, PopMatters, Dark Moon Digest, Ripen the Page, Mash Stories, Pidgeonholes, and The Woven Tale Press. He’s also published two nonfiction ebooks and has several dark, disquieting, and stealthily humane stories featured in numerous anthologies. David lives surrounded by conifers just east of Vancouver, BC.
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