by Brenda Asterino
“The Carolina Parakeets, the only parakeet to exist naturally in the United States, were known for their flashy orange, yellow, and green feathers before their extinction in 1918. These last two Carolina Parakeets died in captivity.”
“That is our epitaph that Josiah wrote for us,” one parakeet states to the other, as if the other doesn’t already know. But they do have their daily rituals to carry out, even if it is in this old musty sub-basement. So they grab the minute here or there to preen themselves and each other. They find the ride down in the elevator exhilarating, but with their vivid, almost firecracker-like colors, the invisible feathers are necessary. Flying off the elevator wire frame, they landing on top of Josiah’s Totem. This will be a new ritual. After rearranging a couple of feathers, Avery attempts to look like a wooden statue walking about the Totem’s shoulders and head which makes Billy Bob laugh. They quickly hush each other so they won’t be heard. It’s fun to fly above the human’s heads over yonder and into the speak easy. They attend well to the human’s chatter, making mental images for their report upon their return upstairs.
The parakeets signal each other when one wants to make sure the other notices or hears the activity that is noteworthy. Billy Bob signals Avery to pay attention to the man on the floor. Disgust passes over his beak. Their unity of mission with the others is clear. And they also have their own thoughts about the Museum’s future. They can’t, won’t, let that creek rise! They have no intention of viewing their own extinction twice. The parakeets will do their part to keep the Walker Museum alive. Otherwise, they know they will be packed in a box until mold requires a funeral pyre. Then, no one will know about Carolina Parakeets. “Why, we’ll blow us up a storm if need be!”
Avery signals Billy Bob to watch the human called Jeff spewing forth obscenities mixed with groans. Billy Bob gives a signal meaning, “not worth the hulls of eaten seeds”. Avery flies closer and whispers, “Even the turkey vulture has a larger function that serves the good of all.”
“She’ll be comin’ round a mountain when she comes..” hesitation…“Whoo, WHOOOO….” Marilyn smiles. “This is a good day…” to the same tune, she adds… “A good day is comin’, if I can find that mountain…to climb, whoo, WHOOO.” Thoughts are coming, too, if she can just keep going with these tunes, she feels like she will remember more, “whoo, WHOOOO.”
It’s not a mountain, but it’s going to feel like a mountain to climb?? Hmmmm, there are two and one is iron…so is a train! Marilyn rubs her forehead. Oh, If I could just get some straight thoughts together. I need a string of pearls. “Where are those pearls? The Walker pearls?”
Settling into her favorite wingback chair, Marilyn takes a deep breath. It’s a chair that her husband’s father used. That Walker lineage. Marilyn reaches for her water bottle on the side table. Catherine always leaves her a bottle of water next to her favorite chair so she has water in easy reach. Marilyn gets it open and drinks from it. Water helps. Maybe a small nap, too, just for a few minutes. Then, she’ll check the refrigerator to see if there are some snacks or sandwiches. Dear Catherine always leaves her something. She fights back the sadness. She feels Catherine’s stress and wants to hug her. Marilyn’s brow furrows as she thinks about Catherine, probably at the Walker Museum. She knows Catherine has too much to deal with, but doesn’t always remember about what. There are things to tell her, though. She’s sure of that!
Falling into sleep, she hears a man’s voice, “whoo, WHOOOOO”. He looks so familiar. The man has mutton chops and his hat keeps falling off. Sometimes, he picks it up and it is a top hat. Sometimes he picks it up and it’s a worker’s hat from another time. He waves it before he puts it back on. Then, it blows off again and as he waves it, it changes into a civil war hat. The dream blurs and comes to life again. He’s checking the contents of the box cars of the train. One is full of manatees and auks. The animals try to get out, but the man stuffs them back in. Sometimes they look alive and sometimes they are more like toys, stuffed animals. He’s constantly smiling and it fills her with joy to see the kindness in that smile.
There are flat cars on the train and those have logs. There’s that man waving his hat again. He looks like a logger now. And Marilyn sees another man with him. He looks so familiar, too. They look a bit alike. Only this man loves her. What happened to that man?
The older man with mutton chops, though he looks in his thirties, pays special attention to another car. He disappears in and out of the box cars. Sometimes they look more like rooms. When she ponders that thought, he squats near the box car, and seems to look directly at her, smiling that broad smile, again. As, he opens that special sliding door, Marilyn sees the faces of wolves. The faces morph like moving backward in time turning into the faces of Native Americans. Their mouths open and close, open and close and she hears drums beating. She seems to travel to the box car and looks inside. It feels like she falls into the box car, only the fall is soft and it goes on and on…and she seems to be traveling through so many rooms. There are secrets in these rooms. When she turns to her left she sees things that sparkle and seem to call to her. When she turns to the right, she feels into the future. A thread of one future is full of light and laughter. There are other threads. Her heart feels too heavy to take that walk.
The wind is blowing the man’s hair as he grabs the bar on the ladder that goes up the end of a box car. He’s smiling as he seems to swing in the wind and joyfully leaps onto the ladder. As he climbs the ladder, the train is picking up speed and spiraling up the steep hill. Muttonchops man is gleefully hanging on and stands on top of the train as it curves uphill and against the wind. Some of the cars of the train fragment and fall away. She squirms against the chair wanting to stop the disintegration. She yearns to feel a younger, stronger body to dispel what is happening; to jump into the fray. Ole muttonchops looms in her face and spreads that big smile again and then recedes into the spiraling scene pointing to…what?
The bending rails become tighter, moving the train up the hill getting steeper until it seems to be approaching a pinnacle. Through a haze, Marilyn seems to make out more pieces of iron. Two lines of iron on a broad white circle. Sliding in like some slimy. decaying leech, the monster starts ravening the train. Sick with anxiety, Marilyn hears ticking, like a big old hallway clock. And another tune starts, “Time, time is ticking…”
And then, she sees the box cars again and all the doors are sliding open, but this time, shapes are falling out of the box cars. Triangles and squares. Some seem to be falling out of oval openings. Another sound starts. Marilyn strains to hear, but it is barely there.
The shapes move like multiplying bacteria. They split or just appear. Crazy geometric shapes building on one another in whimsical shapes bending and slightly twisting. Triangles joining to make rectangles and then moving into 3D blocks. Momentarily, some triangles join to make squares and then cubes. Equilateral cross marks form dividing up the squares into smaller squares. The equilateral cross marks take on a life of their own and fly off the squares spinning, spinning with such force as they flit here and there as if looking for a place to land. Sometimes, the individual simple forms multiply so fast, it is too much for the eye to watch. Sometimes they multiply in strands, kinda like watching DNA. These keep reaching out in new directions. And the boxes that birthed the equilateral crosses fall back into triangular shapes that sometimes form pyramids and then merkabas. The merkabas also spin and move about like power units.
Now, she hears that sound again. It is clearer. Thud- thud. Like a heart-beat. And the merkaba spin and the movement of the forms pattern their speed and movement within a dance to that beat. Now the drums start again to enrich the rhythm and flow.
Marilyn is now also conscious of herself, her whole body, as in a waking dream. Is this a dream or a vision? Is she seeing the mega or micro universe? She is startled by her own thoughts, by the terms she is using in her thoughts. Thoughts! Clarity! What is happening? Is this temporary or permanent?
She is aware of her own heartbeat. Feeling more integrated, she pats her legs and arms and feels herself as whole. Her mind is better matched to her body. And she feels less tortured in her thoughts from her past.
“I must find a way to see, to talk with Catherine. I must do it now before this clarity passes”.
At Subdued Brews, the phone at the front checkout counter rings, “Sunny speaking, we hope you are having a blessed day. Ask me about our specials. May I take your order?”
“Hello, Sunny. Yes, I want to order a coffee, just a large regular decaf coffee with cream and sugar on the side. And, oh, yes, I want to order twelve large sticky buns. Put those in a nice box, please. Could you include napkins? This is a very special order. Could you deliver please? It’s to the old Walker house.”
“Oh, well, we don’t deliver.” Sunny thinks for a moment, it’s the Walker house! An answer to my question earlier? Well, maybe there is a universe helping. “Ma’am, I have a break coming up soon. I’d be happy to deliver to the Walker house. It would be my pleasure.”
“Sweet Girl, you are so kind, so thoughtful with your time. Thank you. Please knock loudly on the door and give the poor dear living there time to get to the door. She’s elderly.”
Sunny, eager for this opportunity to get a connection to the Walker Museum, thinks to ask, “And who is this, please?”
“Oh, and before I forget, please put it on Catherine’s tab. I’m calling from the Museum for her.”
“And your name, please?”
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