Featured Fiction
// Roquela Fernandez

It was a Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday. In New Orleans, they throw a big party. On Bourbon Street, in the French quarter, women holler up at balconies, “Throw me something, mister,” and flash their flesh. The strangers on high surrender long, beaded necklaces.

Some women amass hundreds of the ropey strands. I celebrated the occasion the best way I could think of, with a foamy latte from Starbucks. By chance, the barista gave me my favourite paper cup: printed on the side in green, curly font was, “The Way I See It #134 [...] Life is poetry.” The paper cup was beautiful for being the picture of awful; for being serial; for being a disposable vessel the way life is and poetry never is. Poetry is immortal. Life unfolds like prose punctuated by poetic moments.

After a sip of my latte, it ceased to matter. I had coffee. When asked to describe myself, I would tell people that my personality was as follows: 50% caffeine, 25% altruism, 20% boxing clever, and 5% schadenfreude.

I rambled home while meditating on caffeine. Is it possible that my chipper personality is caffeine induced? Am I a “caf-fiend”? Maybe I should cut back.

As I walked down the lane behind my building, I kicked a rock. It skipped. On clear days, I could see Vancouver’s sharp towers, a distant island of shimmering glass rising above the white crests of a rolling sea of concrete. But it was February; the landscape looked like a greyscale photocopy. The cracked pavement mirrored the sky, a glowering blanket. Clouds, in suspended animation, threatened. The mounting barometric pressure conferred an air of anticipation, of predictions that may come to pass.

I reached my building.
the gnarled tree by
my back door twisted into
a skyward grovel
begging the sky for foliage.
The Mardi Gras gods answered its pleas.
A flock of songbirds
covered the tree’s
stark limbs.
The tree transformed into
a squawking mass of plumes
and beady birds eyes.
Feathers danced
like a Mardi Gras chief
made of Orange-Crowned Warblers.
A heart of wings
beat in its
wooden rib cage.

“Shut up.” My neighbour, Twitch, shouted down from his apartment. He stuck his Desert Eagle .44 Magnum pistol out his open window.

“Blast” called the rhythm
to a percussion of flapping.
The blow
the birds
out of the tree.
D i s p e r s e d
like the seeds of a dandelion puff.
I made a wish
for the birds
the tree
the sky
to manifest
It started to rain.

One moment can change the whole of a life, even if it’s the very last moment. Imagine that you are a famous French author and literary critic. You’ve just taken your leave from a lunch party hosted by your politician friend, François. The meal, sublime – best of all, the Mussels Marinières, flowered like black tulips bathed in Chablis and garlic. On your walk home, you can still recall its pleasant pong, and it triggers the memory of the seaside town you grew up in. Nostalgia: where bliss and irrevocable loss fuck.

You stop to light your half smoked cigar. You roll it between your stubby, nicotine-stained fingers. Its tobacco leaf wrapper is waxy and emits a syrupy smell. For a moment, you consider going for a stiff drink at the Moulin Rouge. In your mind, the red velvet décor and flickering table lamps smoulder. You think of the props: the furs, the fans, the feathers, the fishnets. You think of the women shedding away their disguises, layer by layer, like peeling an onion; your eyes water. They make rhythmic undulations until they uncover their smooth core, which tearfully signifies the end of the striptease.

Bliss. Loss.

Instead of smooth nakedness, or the sharp triangle of diamond-encrusted G-strings, you think of the impossible mountains of laundry generated by the profession. At that moment, you step off the sidewalk to cross the street. You know this corner well; its signature sounds and smells, except you can’t smell the laundry van that rounds the corner and strikes. You can’t smell the absurd death of you, the author. This moment changes the meaning of your whole life: the gloss, your trips to the Moulin Rouge, the embers of your cigar; your undigested mussels and, most of all, the lunchtime parties.

Bliss. Loss.

Implicit in beginnings are endings.

// Roquela Fernandez

// Artwork by Tiare Jung

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com