Cassandra’s Tears

Tears of joy, tears of pain, we are reflected in the salt-water pools we create. So let us build a fleet of paper boats and sail them on our ocean of indecision, laughing at the wind-whipped white-crested waves that would wash over us, drowning us in our own despair, yet somehow never vanquishing us in the end.

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Location: Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada

Thursday, May 25, 2006

In the kitchen

Priscilla was in the kitchen, protected by a floral cotton apron with eyelet ruffles along the edges, preparing the dinner party her husband had sprung on her that morning as he kissed her on his way out the door to work. “Oh, by the way, I’ve invited my boss and his wife over for dinner tonight. He’s allergic to rutabaga.” Well, that meant she couldn’t make her renowned turnip pie, something she always got scads of compliments on from guests. So instead she planned a rutabagaless menu and proceeded to make a melon boat for dessert, using deft wrist action and a good quality melon baller to make short work of the honeydew and cantaloupe she’d bought at market that morning.

The iguana in his cage on the floor and the parakeet in its cage near the ceiling were unconcerned with Priscilla’s preparations: they were playing a telepathic game of “I spy”; the object now being sought out was the irridescent purple butterfly brooch pinned to Priscilla’s hat, a black felt, floppy affair hanging precariously from a hook on the coat tree to the left of the kitchen door, as though it had been unceremoniously tossed there when its owner had come in bearing groceries, which in fact it had.

Precisely at noon, Priscilla ceased her preparations and turned on the radio for the news. The iguana blinked, signalling a hiatus in their game, and the parakeet did a sideways shuffle on its perch and inquired of its mistress, “Cracker?” Priscilla obligingly stuck a saltine through the bars of its cage and the bird snatched it with its sharp beak, gobbling up the delicate pastry. Priscilla made herself a sandwich and a cup of tea which she ate and drank respectively while listening to the news, none of which interested either of the caged animals.

As the announcers wrapped up, however, the parakeet became obviously agitated, hopping up and down on its skinny feet and ruffling its feathers. As soon as the last words were spoken, Priscilla opened the cage and allowed the parakeet its freedom of the house. It immediately left its perch inside its cage to perch on top of it. Priscilla went back to her preparations as the radio played a Beethoven symphony conducted by Herbert von Karajan. The iguana looked bored and possibly slept. His scaled green torso rose and fell almost imperceptibly with his shallow breathing, but otherwise he was as unmoved and unmoving as a sculpture from oxydized copper.

The parakeet, convinced that its freedom was not just an illusion, flew into the hallway where its spindly claws found purchase on a ficus plant growing in a very large and ugly pot that had been a wedding present to Priscilla and her husband from his late great-aunt Mirabelle. As though expressing its own contemptuous opinion of the vessel, the bird “missed” the dirt and spattered the edge of the pot. Priscilla would have to remember to clean that up before dinner.

The music on the radio had changed to a Bach lute suite played by some lutenist Priscilla remembered having seen at a concert in Toronto, Paul O’Dette, or something like that. She liked the counterpoint of the composition, and the clean lines of his playing. She went back to her work, kneading dough for bread on a board of yew wood that she had lathed herself from the tree that had once grown in their yard and had been felled quite tragically when the municipal dumpster tipped over onto it. Priscilla did not think about that now, enthralled by the baroque music and the rhythm of her hands. The parakeet only thought about snatching some bread dough for itself. The iguana thought of nothing at all.