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Winter Calls
Portland, Oregon, 7:23 A.M.,11/21/21
The cold-breasted season calls softly in Portland, with the higher tone pitch of the gull. The big white birds from the Ocean that he had neglected to glimpse these three winters passed in the Pacific Northwest, had once again bullied the crows off of the pole tops.
The telephone poles stand twice as high here as in the east. The crows, particularly the three that nest in the tree above the back of the flat-topped garage, and clatter like skeletal ducks after dropping from the tree to do their waddling take-off run over the little white door just passed each misty dawn, these black busy bodies have been driven low, the gulls cruising the skies above. The crows were walking on the roof more this morning, not cawing as much from afar.
He should have known that the white winged rats of the sea would be here. For last night was the first night of the year that he could not get warm under the sheets and covers and had to turn on the little occilation heater, to clatter softly thrice every minute, it’s soft red light playing weirdly off the engine hoist, the punching bags, the drum-set and the engine.
His chest was thick with disease and he should rise. Dad had to work last night and might not be home. He must rise and check on the near-teen duo he had gamed at the table with until the moon was high.
On came the pocket mag-light. The pants were folded on the weight bench next to the bed above his boots. His ears rang like church bells as he managed to get his pants on without sitting on the little cozy bunk. The leather slippers were stacked upon the traveling boots, next to the Portland boots. For perhaps the first morning in a month, as he avoided the bench bottom with his left knee he shifted his shoulders slightly to the left so that the oil rod protruding from the car engine near the foot of the little bed would not catch in his shoulder sleeve.
The door squeaked in an almost wooden tone as he emerged into the crystal hung air, the typical vapor of a morning above the Hurricane River hanging like snowy fog among the deep evergreen trees and the lighter green of the rose-grown lawn.
Dad was home—the car there. Beyond was the short side street, across which the tiny dumpster of the four-unit apartment was being pillaged by a young homeless man: an old dirty sheet being unwound form the entangling garbage, the small plastic dresser that the homeless woman had failed to reassemble the other morning, being put together once again, with even less patience.
Three crows—the normal crew that perched, cawed and clattered in these parts, paying special attention to human behavior—milled, scandalized at their plight, at the base of their central telephone pole, as a large seagull cruised above in the mist hung sky. They seemed to rescue their self-esteem over a mime like critique of the homeless man’s nesting behavior.
The small house was warm, legos everywhere from yesterday afternoon’s furious arms race.
Dad had unloaded the dishwasher.
The boys had left cereal, nuts, crumbs and pie crust scattered across two rooms, the recycle cartoons in the trash can, role-playing manuals heaped on the soup-stained table, dice underfoot.
He put the coffee on and returned trough the crisp air to the garage. Over his shoulder, the homeless man grumbeled as he heaved the plastic dresser back into the dumpster and policed his recent work area, the dirty old sheet bundled under his arm.
As he closed the door behind him the three crows lifted off to the eves of a single-story house, hunched in surly discontent under a sky suddenly grown white with the wings of their enemy, a for who greedily trumpeted a crooked tune of conquest.
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