Posted on: April 24th, 2011 Fool
by Steven R. Stewart
Moths dotted the back wall of the house, clinging to the faded siding in spots where the heat that escaped from indoors was strongest. The weather had grown cold, the trees were ablaze with orange, and the deadly birds were already flying their way south. With the danger gone and winter on its way, the moths hung tight to the wall, reflected on their lives, and waited to dieâ€“all but one.
“You, my friend, were aptly named,” said Gray.
Fool didnâ€™t waste his energy getting upset. He concentrated on keeping his wings against his body, imagined the heat inside circulating, keeping him alive.
Gray persisted. “Youâ€™re planning not to die, is that it? Itâ€™s already been sixteen days, buddy. Weâ€™re only supposed to make it fifteen. If I were you, Iâ€™d see if I could find a desperate female and do a little last minute fertilization.”
“Itâ€™s too late for that,” Brokenwing said, his small body shaking. “Isnâ€™t it? I could b-be wrong.”
Nearby, a moth fell lifelessly to the wooden deck. Fool didnâ€™t look. Gray pretended not to notice. Brokenwing stared for a long time, back legs nervously combing over the crooked place on his left wing.
“Look around,” Fool said. “Even if I wanted to do thatâ€“and I donâ€™tâ€“Brokenwing is right, itâ€™s too late.”
“I wonder what my babies will look like,” Brokenwing said. “Their mom was b-beautiful.”
“A lot like grubs, Iâ€™d bet,” Gray said.
“Theyâ€™ll be beautiful,” Fool said. “You did good, Brokenwing. You too, Gray.”
Brokenwing smiled weakly.
Gray looked away. “Itâ€™s so stupid. Iâ€™m never even going to see them, but I still love the shit out of them, you know?”
Another moth fell off the wall. Then another. Fool wondered how many of the ones still clinging to the wall were alive and how many were already dead.
“Thatâ€™s what kills me about this whole thing, Fool,” Gray said. “Youâ€™re the coolest guy I know, and after this, your line just stops. When you die, you disappear. Your genetics go up in smoke. And for what? For some bird? For some pretty predator?”
Fool fluttered his wings, once. “Donâ€™t call her that.”
Gray fluttered back. “Sheâ€™s an oriole, Fool. They eat us. Your crush isnâ€™t going to change that.”
“Youâ€™ve seen me with her,” Fool said. “Itâ€™s not a crush. She loves me.”
“Well, she scares the hell out of me,” Gray said.
“Thatâ€™s part of the attraction,” Fool said. “Sheâ€™s big and wild and dangerous, and she treats me like Iâ€™m the most important thing in the world. Itâ€™s like kissing a flame and not getting burned.”
“She canâ€™t love you,” Gray said. “They donâ€™t know the meaning.”
“When we promised to be faithful to each other, that was a sacrifice for her too. You didnâ€™t see her, Gray, crying over her unfertilized eggs.”
“Why?” Gray said. “What the hell are you both sacrificing for?”
“Love,” Fool said. “Just love. Metaphysical, eternal, bigger than genetics and nature and the goddamn winter cold.”
It suddenly occurred to Fool that Brokenwing had stopped shivering. He climbed over and nudged him. Brokenwing fell, twirling to the ground like a leaf.
Gray turned away, his body trembling. “Shit, not him.”
“Go to the earth, old friend,” Fool said.
They were silent for a long time. A few scattered snowflakes began to drift out of the sky. Fool watched one pass so close it refracted the light and broke the world into pieces.
“Thatâ€™s why youâ€™ll make it,” Gray said. “All the way through the winter, and into the spring. Because you have something to hope for, something bigger than just making grubs and dying.”
“That means a lot, Gray. Thank you. Sometimes Iâ€™m afraid I wonâ€™t make it. That Iâ€™ll never see her again.”
Gray shook. “You w-will. In the spring.”
“In the spring,” Fool agreed.
“I want to be quiet now.”
“Okay. Let me know if you want to talk some more.”
A few minutes passed. When Fool finally nudged Gray, he didnâ€™t respond.
He wanted to wish Gray farewell on his journey, but couldnâ€™t find his voice.
Fool scooted himself into a crack in the siding and thought about the warmth in his body circulating, like it had in his cocoon so many days before. He wondered if his oriole had flown somewhere warm yet. He hoped she wasnâ€™t cold, wherever she was.
The curtain of snow thickened. Fool clung to his life and waited for spring.