The Dead Canary
Sheaves of corn tell us it is autumn and the man's casual posture and arrogant eyebrows indicate that he thinks he owns everything his eyes can see. The missus, in beautifully executed blue satin, has a sneaky look about her that suggests the yellow bird on her lap is not alive.
"Francis, are you listening?"
"Yes, Frances, I am all ears."
This is not the land of milk and honey, but merely one of natural abundance. Fruit trees and vegetable gardens abound. Game is plentiful. The man awkwardly leans over the woman. He is trying to peep down her décolletage, but she turns her shoulders and blocks his view.
"Francis don't be a pig, now."
"Oink oink, I feel like being piggish. Don't you?"
"No, decidedly not. I bathed this morning. My skin is clean and fresh."
"I haven't bathed in two weeks. I enjoy the ripening odors of my own body, truth be told. Very manly and energizing."
Frances pinches her nose. "If you only knew, Francis."
"Well, don't be so high and mighty. I have smelled your drawers after accidents and so on and believe me, they cried for mercy."
Frances bristles. "You sniff my drawers?"
"Yes, yes I do. I want to keep on top of things, you see. Animalistic, yes. But I find it reassures me. On the whole, they smell quite lovely. But now and again. I think the last time your mother's broccoli and beef did the trick. If you ask me, the beef was off."
"It was not off. I already explained it was the curry wrap I'd eaten earlier that day."
"Ah, yes. That explained the smell, and the colour. A fierce yellow."
A long silence ensues. Some men in whites play cricket on a distant green. Dull clicks and clacks register in the thick air.
"This reminds me of something," he says. "A dream, perhaps."
"You don't dream, Francis."
"Who said I don't dream?"
"The other evening you told George and Leeann that you haven't dreamed since the 1980s. Did I hallucinate that?"
"Aw, shut up. Always nitpicking. Let me just be myself."
Frances' face blanches. She shoots to her feet, drops the bird, and hastens off with urgent little steps.
"Where are you going?"
"Ugh. Yesterday's tacos."
She raises her hand. "I'll put aside the drawers for you."
The Dalí Lobster
You remind me of an ancient Roman, the soft colors, elongated form, the sensitive face. And yet you are not solidly fixed to anything. In which case you remind me of an ancient Egyptian, floating there with painted eyes.
"You're staring again," you say.
"I can't help myself. Your face tells stories."
"All faces tell a story."
"That's just it, a story. But yours tells stories."
"Is that supposed to flatter me?"
"That's one way of looking at it. Have you decided?"
"I think I'll have the Dalí lobster."
"That comes with a black telephone."
"I'll ask for a substitute."
The waiter has piercing blue eyes and the eddying waves of blue pigment that turn green in his waistcoat suggest a tumultuous mentality.
"Absinthe for two and the lady would like the Dalí lobster."
"How would she like the telephone prepared?" he asks.
"May I substitute the telephone?" you ask.
"No substitutions, ma'am, I'm sorry. It says so in the menu."
"Okay then, I'll have it flambéed."
"Anything to eat for you, sir?"
"Bring me a bowl of beef bouillon."
The waiter departs and for the longest moment you stare at me without blinking. I grow uncomfortable, shift in my chair.
"Are you trying to lose weight?" you ask.
"No, of course not," I say. "I'm simply not hungry. Maybe an absinthe or two will open up my appetite."
"And open up your mind."
"Contrary to myth, it's not like that — I mean, you get more drunk than anything. They don't even make it with wormwood anymore. I just dig the taste."
An hour later my skull rests on the table. The waiter nudges my shoulder. Large drops of rain are falling in my head. A horse lurches in there. Chickens flee. I need to pee. Meanwhile, an old black telephone smokes at my elbow and a lobster screams.
Sal Difalco lives in Toronto.