Alan Falkingham

The Lonely Magpie

I watched his face, criss-crossed like alpaca tracks, grow paler each day, a yellow hue to his eyes that the doctor said was because his liver was quitting on him. When he died, I paid two hundred dollars to have his gold tooth extracted by a dentist from Cleves and another hundred for a Jewish jeweler to hang it on a chain. I keep it around my neck, so I can always have a little piece of him next to my heart. I wear his skin too, a coat so over-sized that, when I walk, I can spread my wings and feel the wind lifting me up. Sometimes I career around the yard, cawing at clouds, my hair-feathers tangled into dark ropes, until the neighbors chase me inside. I bathe in a tiny bowl of water and live on fat balls which I fry myself then leave to harden in the skillet, the smell lingering for days. At night, I flutter into the roof timbers, make a bed from insulation fiber plucked from the walls and, every morning, I awake with the sunrise. When the police come they are like big scarecrows. They say I have been stealing, silver from a tip jar, and try to trap me in a cage. I peck at them, claw away with my nails, all gnarled and curling. Because they do not understand that once there were two of us. But now there is just me. And that my sorrow is all I have left that matters.