The shaggy Ralph crept out of the basement hauling a small brass cage. His undine, furled inside the cage like one of those strange fishes that presses against reefs, clutched two of the brass bars with a kind of resigned fruitlessness. They'd been together for years. He puts her in the cage for a few hours every week or so, and when she's freed they go at it until she turns blue and he spills his avalanche-like seed all over the apartment. This behavior is characteristic of undines and Ralphs. For the most part everything is quiet in their home, beyond the occasional tinkle of chimes and the half-tropical, half-frosty wind that continuously blows through. When they invite me to lunch, I usually bring some portable wire cutters and hide them in my socks, along with a very shrill bell that I strap with electrical tape to my thigh. Lila and I exchange our little glances. I keep my fingers crossed because the Ralph still suspects nothing, as does my wife, who disappears for days at each new moon.
A panther carrying a small child in its jaws waddles through the scrub. The child, of course, is dead. There is truth, many believe, to the fact that at various points throughout human history infants have been raised by wolves. I am on an abandoned airfield, holding an orange paddle. All the planes are landing at another airfield. From a tuftless dune, a horse watches me. He seems confused. Trying to correct myself, I put down the orange paddle and begin walking toward a building, hoping someone is there, a working vending machine at least. While walking I sense the bewildered outlook of an empty field surrounded by a fence. Walking slowly, I resolve to be done with bewilderment. The building is full of people. They are seated in plastic chairs, reading papers or staring into space. It is then that the pilot sees the orange paddle, stuck there in the snow.
James Grinwis' work is forthcoming in Conjunctions, Colorado Review, Cider Press Review, Bird Dog, and others. He lives in Amherst, MA, with his wife, son, dog, and cat.
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