Well, here's your answer. Lisa is a writer and musician living in North Alabama with her four cats. She is the author of the novels The Blue Pen, Sam the Night Person, and Full Moon in December. Her fourth novel A Dream of the Past is coming out next month.
As always, enjoy!
By Lisa Rusczyk
Picture this: An old man in the park with a long, red balloon. He twists it and twists, a squeaking noise makes it seem like the balloon’s about to pop, then he stops. He holds a red parrot now. He hands it to you. It’s yours.
“Jeff, you’re too slow. I tell you one more time, we’re going to have to talk, seriously.”
Jeff goes back to his work. Blood doesn’t bother him anymore, but at first working with the chickens was terrible. He didn’t have to kill them, thank god, praise be. But there’s always blood, even with only plucking. He tries to pick up pace, feeling blisters under his gloves swelling.
Picture this: A piece of land covered with wildflowers. Butterflies are everywhere. There aren’t no bees, not one. A kite flies high in the sky, purple and full of ribbons. There’s a breeze so warm it fills your lungs and flows all the way into your fingertips.
“Jeff, come on, now, son. You okay? You got to pay attention.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I’ll pay attention.”
Boss Man smiles without lifting his lips. “Let’s smoke.”
They go outside and Jeff lights Boss Man’s cigarette. Boss Man leans on a brick wall and looks out at the almost-dark night sky. “You know, I started here when I was your age. You just got to work. You are lucky you have the opportunity. You got arms, legs. I like you, but you got to realize you ain’t one of them chickens…”
Picture this: A black and white kitten sitting in front of a fireplace. It just finished drinking a bowl of milk and now it’s warming up. It purrs and licks its tiny whiskers. It looks so wise for such a bitty little thing.
“…so all you need is a little push, you know, and you can focus a little more, then it’s fine. If you don’t get there, then I can’t help you no more. Are we clear?”
“Good.” He tosses his butt. “Now go on in there and do your darndest.”
Jeff goes back inside. Smith, next to him, chuckles and shakes his head. “Damn, he likes to ride your ass. Ten other folks twelve times slower than you. Sorry, man. What he think? You’re his student in the art of chicken guts?”
Jeff doesn’t meet Smith’s eyes. He goes back to work and says, “Well, I got a smoke.”
Smith laughs and says it wouldn’t be worth it to him.
Picture this: Snow drifting from a gray, morning sky when nobody in the whole world is awake. The only ones to watch with you are the angels, and although you think you can’t see them, they are there in front of your eyes. They are riding those fat flakes and if you listen really hard, you’ll hear the slightest sound of their laughter as their bits of snow tap the ground on landing.
Jeff leaves at eight and drives his Honda home. He knows he smells horrible, but he can’t actually tell for himself anymore. He walks up two flights to his small apartment and opens the door to the smell of spaghetti and the sounds of Willie Nelson. Kelli comes from the kitchen, wrinkling her nose at his clothes. “Blow kiss.” He does. She blows one back. “Dinner’s almost up. How’s work?”
“It was my last day before leave, remember. It’ll be so nice to keep my feet up for awhile.”
He showers, changes into flannel and shorts. He goes back to the kitchen. “Kel, lie down for me?”
She sighs. Shakes her head. “You smell nice.”
“Oh, okay.” She walks into the den and lies on the small brown couch. Jeff kneels at her side on the floor and lifts up her shirt. He traces his hand down the side of the enormous ball that is the belly of his wife, and says, “Got some things to tell you about. Picture this: An old man in the park with a red balloon…”