Large Animals in Everyday Life

Large Animals in Everyday Life by Wendy Brenner Read Free Book Online

Book: Large Animals in Everyday Life by Wendy Brenner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Wendy Brenner
Tags: General Fiction
childhood vacation on Sanibel Island which he and his brothers had spent feverishly collecting the best whelks and scallops and periwinkles, the rare ones with the live creatures still in them. They took dozens back to their room at the Jolly Roger each afternoon to be boiled on the hot plate, never tiring of watching the mysterious blobs spreading out over the bottom of the pot, the strange sightless animals surrendering in their rubbery, milky puddles. The sexy, velvety smell of themineral oil they’d used to polish the empty shells came back to him, carrying with it a surge of the old wonder, the nameless thrill of boiling the sea creatures.
    But the oysters behind him now were cold and silent and clamped shut, hiding their secrets. His life seemed small and doomed and embarrassing, and the loop of time between his days at the Jolly Roger and the present seemed like someone’s, maybe Maura’s, idea of a good joke. How Maura could be responsible for the sad loop of his life he could not explain.
    I am not invisible
, he told himself, his eyes blurring.
I exist
. He wanted to state these things out loud to someone, someone in a position of authority, but he had only himself to address.
    â€¢ • •
    Ebb and flow, stir and settle, bubble and curl. This was what the oysters knew. But now they sensed a change. Something was happening. Of course, they had known everything that would ever happen to them from the moment they had come into existence, from even before they had existed, but they had certainly not bargained for this. Excitement was in the air. A new element hissed around them like a predator. Beneath them rumbled more than the usual uncomfortable earth. They stirred thickly in their shells, uncertain.
    â€¢ • •
    The month-old strawberries, for their part, resented that they were not considered to be “live.” They understood, in their pungent, opaque way, that life was romance. They had played an important part in more than one courtship. Around them almost always the air harbored human hopes and celebration, or at least appreciation. They knew enjoyment. They knew ceremony. If they were not “live,” what was? A machine had once been invented to measure their cries when they were bitten into.Another machine recorded and amplified the sounds of insects eating their way through the strawberries’ viscera. Men had gotten rich off these machines, but where were these men now? Strawberries everywhere felt important and, now, cheated.
    â€¢ • •
    Pat pulled into the plant’s back lot and rolled down a window to clear, expectant tropical air. The sky was yellowing up for morning and the swampy, froggy smell of north Florida seemed far away. He backed the van up to the loading dock, thinking of Maura’s Indian ringneck parakeet, who imitated the backing-up beep of her neighborhood’s garbage truck. The bird was retarded, Maura said; all it did was yell nonsense words and sing over and over what it had learned of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”: “I’m a doo.” Sometimes when the Trinidadian was out Maura phoned and Pat could hear the bird exclaiming in the background as though it were desperate to speak to him. Once, lying unclothed in Pat’s bed, holding him, Maura had told him she loved his apartment because it was as quiet as a graveyard. “Oh, thanks,” he said.
    â€œNo,” she said, “it’s wonderful here. You’re completely unencumbered.”
    He remembered watching her get dressed that day, feeling too moody to get up himself and see her out, but the moodiness had seemed only like love, a particularly strong swoon. She kissed him, already wearing her dark sunglasses, and said again, “I wish
I
had a place like this,” and then darted out to her minivan and backed out of his driveway, using only her rearview mirror, not even turning her head. He remembered watching this from the window over his

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