4.

Shirley was beside herself and cried for the little bird.

Jane, rather bereaved with Shirley’s actions, got up and made herself busy putting dishes into their cupboard homes, trying to stack quietly. 

Shirley decided to take the bird down to the beach and set it free of the boundary of the house—such an unsatisfactory place for the bird to leave the body—so that the bird would at least be released of the constraints set forth by human coincidence.

“Jane, I’m going to take this poor little thing down to the water. You know, give it a little ceremony. Let it decompose naturally.”

“Kay. Sounds good.  I’ll stay here. I’ve had too much sun already. I can feel it wrinkling me.” Jane touched her face.

“I’ve had too much too, but what’s another ten minutes in one’s life?” As Shirley said this she realized that for the dove those ten minutes were the difference between one world and the next. Between life and death. Between flying through the air and breaking its skull on the double-paned glass of the house that it couldn't see.

Because it had been frenzied and afraid. Shirley picked up the bird in the pink lace towel and took off for the beach.

*

As she left the house she could hear Jane putting on flamenco music and as she headed down the winding path she saw Jane start to dance wildly in front of the large bay windows. Shirley paused a moment on the path and stood there watching Jane sway and twirl, more of a Sufi Zikr than contemporary dance. She was all sex in her bathing suit and if Shirley listened closely she could make out the guitar strings plucking away over the rolling thud of water lapping the sand nearby.

As Jane danced, Shirley thought she was beautiful. She stood staring and wondered why Jane could feel free to dance in the midst of the day and she, Shirley, felt anything but, felt sadness and guilt and irresponsibility that she'd just killed a living being that was likely going about its day.

Jane had pulled her hair back with a nylon band and flexed her long slender fingers taut in rhythmic jaunts. Her eyes were closed and yet her movement indicated she knew the exact currents of every life energy in the room, music, island.

Shirley watched and felt her own mortal contraction as she watched her friend, like she was not allowed to know this freedom herself--that she was even scared of it!--witnessing something so free. A silhouette animated by a zinging current. Shirley looked down at the white bird that was folded in between the hand towel, wondering if it noticed these things when it was alive.

Why wasn't ecstasy the norm for Shirley? Why was she feeling so uptight? 

The  dove was flying along in the heat when down below he spotted something shimmering.  The shiny object which was a holographic spiral that Shirley had hung in the window because it reminded her of her mother who loved holographic anything and seeing it bounce around in the light made her think of her mother and smile. 

Glass isn’t a solid, it is merely suspended for long periods of time and if one were to stop the clock and check back at 112 Orchid Manor in a few decades one would see that the glass had slowly dripped down, pulled by gravity. And one day it would completely disintegrate.

*

Jane continued in her twirling dervish dance for the entirety of Shirley’s beach outing. Being fluid and flexible, ready and accepting—this is what was before us. Jane didn’t know that of course—that she was indeed doing such an important dance--but it could have been a help to her to know the more accurate and in-depth examination required of life.

Shirley made her way down the little secret garden pathway that separated the house from the scorching hot sand and little black crabs that scurried for cover as soon as you saw them. She got down onto the beach with the bright sun broiling down on her and smelled the algae rotting in the heat.

She was mad at the sun for being so bright! It made it nearly impossible for one to think straight, let alone perform an eulogy for a bird. She looked around to make sure no one was watching and then, holding the dead bird in both her hands she carefully climbed up the lava rock pileup on the corner of the beach. Standing on the furthest rock that jutted over the water she held the bird in the towel next to her body in an act of love and care.

“Today is a beautiful day and you are a beautiful bird. I am sorry my stupidity ended your life early. I hope you did not leave a family behind. I am very sorry. I wish I could take it back.”

Shirley tossed the bird into the sea and watched its small body hit the water. It sank a few inches and then bobbed against the rocks below and then took a progressive descent, until it was out of sight. Shirley sighed. 

Shirley sat down on the hot black lava rocks, letting it burn the back of her legs. It felt good.  She picked at the little weeds growing out of a clump of dried dirt and flung them where the bird had been descending. She cupped her hands over her eyes and looked into the water.

The ocean was like a lake, almost completely flat. It was the kind of day that tourists from far away like Duluth and Toledo were promised from their travel agents. The kind of day that secretaries had screen savers of in cubicles in Tigard and Valencia and Fort Worth. She was glad the visitors would get what they'd come for. It was the island's main economy.

Leaning over the smooth lava rock, Shirley closed her eyes and let the hot wind push her back and forth.

Small waves were slowly returning with the tide change and rhythmic lapping began again. Sweat slid down her cleavage and down her back. Shirley breathed deep and inhaled air into her lungs. But the air was musky. Heavy. Full of water. 

           Shirley was so hot that she leapt up and slipped soundlessly into the water, the only noise a few bubbles covering the place where she had gone under.

           Shirley felt relieved as she sank into the deeper water where it was darker and cool. She opened her eyes and her mouth closed; small bubbles escaped from her nose every few moments. Shirley relaxed into her floating sink, spreading her arms as her dress rippled through the water. 

She felt her body slowly rising back towards the surface. The water felt so good in all this heat.