My friend sends a selfie, he’s dying in a hospital bed, he’s got all these red cords coming out of his face.
I text back an emoticon of a cat frowning and crying and gnashing savagely at its own bloody cartoon cat tail.
Then I’m looking out the apartment window and thinking about tossing my phone out it, but there’s a little girl, maybe 7 years old, slouching on the opposite fire escape, smoking something.
Her black hair whips the brick wall. My hair is falling out. She puffs; staring into the glare I know my window has—stupid sun, doing its worst.
I’ve stayed home from work today. I stayed home from work yesterday too. So did my wife. She took a mental health day. I have taken two mental health days.
All of us, everywhere: no reason.
The doorbell rings, I’m expecting an important package. The package is to change my life.
I text my friend, “Hey! You’re dying! Like for real for real!”
He texts back, “Against everyone’s advice.”
I grind my teeth. “My boss once told me a great story about a bad reaction he had to an anesthesia. He woke up and Incredible Hulked his room apart, crushing his bed pan in one hand. TOP THAT STORY, IRL”
“Heh, I’ll try.”
The doorbell rings again. I finally get up.
On the way, I can see better, out another window that the little girl on the fire escape is not smoking a cigarette. She has a joint. She’s smoking weed. She puffs a smoke ring up and it looks beautiful as it rises over the snowy street.
Doorbell. Doorbell. Doorbell.
I open the door.
It’s the man from the electric company. He wants to check the electric meter. I am not letting him in the apartment to check the electric meter.
“What’s the problem?” he says.
“Last time you checked the meter our bill went up $1100.”
A cat is loose in the hallway. Is scrambling. The cat sprints into my apartment. Now the cat is loose in my apartment. The electric man and me spin around and I say, “THAT WASN’T YOUR CAT, WAS IT?”
He comes in and helps me try to corner the cat. It’s a black cat. I believe that black cats are good luck. We see the black cat sprint out from the bathroom and shoot under the couch like a missile but we can’t get the cat out.
“Who’s cat is this?” I scream that in the hallway. No answer. “Who’s cat is this?” I scream out the window at the little girl. No answer. “Who’s cat is this?” I text my dead friend. The electric man leaves.
I leave too.
I walk down to the P.O. box, there’s nothing in the P.O. box. There’s no ticket about the package that will change my life. I decide to do what I usually do when there is nothing in the P.O. box.
I leave the building.
I cross the street.
Mirror image. Sometimes my mail accidentally goes to the building across the street. Mirror image.
I climb the stairs.
I knock on the door.
The little girl answers.
“Your mom or dad home?”
“My dad died and my mom is in the shower, come in.”
I sit in the living room and wait. Across the street I can see my kitchen window, which is open just a bit. The sun is no longer glaring on my windows. The sun is directly overhead.
A pigeon walking on my window ledge slips into the shade behind the glass of where I live. “GET OUT OF THERE!”
My phone buzzes. It’s another friend, she’s invited me to a Facebook event page, and she’s going to be shot out a cannon, over a canyon filled with smoke, into a thousand mattresses filled with feathers.
I’m about to click ‘maybe’ when I see that my wife has clicked ‘going.’ She is at her desk somewhere, she is working, she has clicked ‘going.’
I click ‘going.’
The mom comes out of the shower, pink towel wrapped around her head and she knows who I am, she waves, annoyed to see me, she says “lift the table cloth”.
Underneath the tablecloth is the package I’ve been waiting for—the one that’ll change my life.
I say, “How long has this been here?”
The mom disappears into her bedroom and I hear the hair dryer fire up.
There is a small casket in the box.
The casket is the size of the 7-year-old girl. I stare at the girl as she sips straight from a bottle of pirate rum.
She smiles, her milk teeth are sharp.
I lug the casket across the street, and as I open the door, I see feathers scattered all across the floor.
I collect all the feathers; I place the feathers in the casket.
I find a piece of bloody beak, I put that in there too.
I text my wife “We have lost, and we have gained and now we have a mystery cat!”
I Swiffer mop all the pigeon fluid off the hard wood floor. Beneath the kitchen sink, I hear my new cat thrashing with a powerful mouse. I lob the small casket out another window.
I watch it land in the Hudson. Submerge. Then float up. Floating away.
And the Hudson is glowing gold, because it’s that time of day. River glowing gold, time of day.
My heart is stuffed with packing peanuts. My milk teeth are gone.
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