100 Cocktails Later
Peggy gripped the cockerel between her knees - whilst its russet neck, hung, wrung and wilting, between her shins. It swung back and forth as she plucked.
The feathers tickled her nose and caused her to spit. She paused and wriggled her nostrils with the back of her hand, then resumed her work. The sun was high and the air dry - the dust motes free on the air. Her back ached and she arched, inwardly-stretching. In the basket to her right, more cockerels' waited to be undressed, and in the basket to her left, cockerels pink and plucked, awaited collection from the farm hand.
Peggy had been doing this job for so long now, she'd ceased to wonder at the life that had existed before cold-blooded hands had twisted the neck and halted its crowing. She'd ceased to think about how it would have strutted around the farm yard, tall in its shortness, its red crown worn with self importance. Now, the only reminder of that life, was the still-warm flesh on her knee. When had she become so immune to her task?
Being born in the year of The Rooster, Peggy thought she should have some affinity with the bird. She should be ambitious and enthusiastic. That's what The Rooster stood for, after all. But her dreams had drifted away in a breeze of apathy and she hadn't even waved them goodbye, let alone grasped them to her heart and given them life.
She threw the plucked cockerel into the basket, its pimples feeling like braille to her fingers. She looked wearily at those left to pluck. She estimated there were at least another fifteen to go before she could take a break. If only...if only she could get away from this place. Or even dream herself away - that would be a start. But she was trapped, caught in a monotonous wheel of drudgery.
She slid from her stool and landed amongst the feathers with a thud. Not even those could soften her despair. Leaning forward she gathered them in her arms - sneezing out her frustration before lifting them above her head. The feathers cascaded over her like snowflakes, and in that moment of abandon, she realised what she must do.
With work-worn hands she began to search through the feathers - lifting them to the light - admiring their shape. One hundred
cock-tails later, she'd chosen the ones she would use to make a dream-catcher. She smiled, pleased with herself, before dropping them into the swag of her pinny.
This time she would make sure her dreams didn't float away - the dream-catcher would prevent this - but it would be down to her, she realised, to make those dreams come true.
“Daddy is angry.” The girl calmly drew two stick figures with masts which must be two women with skirts. One of them had a large blue cricket bat. “This is mommy chasing the woman she found with daddy in the bedroom.”
The girl was so clinical, so detached, it bothered the therapist. The girl was drawing lots of bottles everywhere. On rooftops, in trees, some disguised as buildings, some with wheels like double-decker buses, some had people inside. Now the girl was making all the bottles orange.
The therapist inquired, “What are these?” Now there were tulip-shaped glasses with bubbles foaming. The glasses had feathers like a cockatoo top.
“Daddy says mommy drinks too many cocktails. I do not know what they are, but I can guess they are something you can drink too much.”
Then the girl darkened the entire picture, wrinkled it into a ball, and tore it in two. She told the therapist, “When I asked mommy about why she wants to divorce daddy, mommy says, when a story is done it is done.”
Another round of the house special—a drink
called RHYTHM. Another cigar.
My mouth around a moist edge
as if I am kissing all the boys around this table.
For your birthday, I represent my mom & dad.
Prove that I haven’t inherited their
low tolerance, their alch-allergy.
I can make it through the threshold,
only falling onto your lap and pushing
back hair so you can see.
I’m happy to celebrate you—
how you stare at the ceiling
with every sip, your eyes crossing
as tobacco burns, your breath
drawing smoke patterns, swirls that
weave through shirt fibers
grazing my skin
with the fragrance of ease.
We unlock the hours with RHYTHM,
a gentle swish before the gulp
a glance at the game score
a puff and repetition.
Then hold one another by exit door
swaying as our first dance.
Come with me.
I recline toward the sky as we cruise
in sixth gear. Follow the length
of the power lines—the five wires
with birds perched like notes on sheet music.
The car a finger passing each word of a story.
The car orchestrating what will become of tonight.