A trio of girls walk the fringe of the parking lot, baskets of bread on each arm. Their clothes are dotted with stab holes from sharp pencils and old nails, they have no lace about their ears. Someone told them about birds hitting the buildings, about dead birds by the thousands. The girls seek the graves of the birds whose bones are turning to coal. They place bottle caps in neat rows as markers for the remains, with a sprinkle of crumbs for food in the afterlife. In dusty skin and solemn bowed heads are the cavities of lost bodies scored in the memory.
Browning flowers bend along the driveway of a medium sized white house. The man who lives there marries every few years, taking a new young bride who subsequently drives away in the night, or who vanishes on her way to the grocery store, or dies in childbirth along with the infant. The neighbors hear no fighting, in fact they barely see anyone about the property at all. Yet each winter weak plumes of smoke etch out of the chimney, and someone prunes back the bushes in early spring. The man in the house is observant, for he counts and measures the boot prints in the snow. He knows which are his, which belong to the meter reader, and those of the curious children who circle the house in the night, until he chases them like rabbits from the undergrowth with an old cane switch.
At dusk one day a finch mistakenly flew inside the kitchen of a lazy woman and her daughter. Trapped inside for the night, they gave her a piece of lace to finish mending, then some torn underwear, and finally a delicate handkerchief with frayed edges. The finch nipped and hopped and pulled and handled the needle with ease. Finally they gave her a heavy black coat with fine white stitching that had come apart, and urged her to fix it. The finch did as they asked, for she feared she would never be let go if she refused. Then she sank down, exhausted, for it was now nearing dawn. The mother and daughter turned to each other and blushed, suddenly ashamed that they made the finch work so hard. They lit the copper pot and gave her some tea. But it was too late: the bird was dead. While the sun rose, the women were framed in the window with the morning light, averting their eyes and stroking the finch, hoping to coax her alive. When they did glance into the sun coming into the kitchen, a crow flew by the window, and in that black second they both lost their sight forever. Now they stumble about the cold house, fighting over the mended coat.