He feeds the ravenous seagulls down beside the lake, shares his lunch hour with people that most other people disregard. He thinks about Richard, living alone in his shack made of watermelon sugar, thinks about Robert risking his life by having his teeth cleaned without the benefit of antibiotics. He thinks about his own heart, murmuring unsteadily in his chest; about the problems of becoming older and colder in a land that rewards youth and warmth; about being fat and lazy in a place that values only fitness and ambition.
Today he listens to the radio and watches a freshwater iceberg circling around in the current where the lake flows out into the river, flows north toward Canada, where the iceberg seems particularly unwilling to go but seems equally and inevitably destined to be.
When he gets home, before it gets dark, he remembers the seagulls and the iceberg but he only tells her about the iceberg. When he tells her about the iceberg’s apparent indecision about staying in the lake or going with the flow, north to Canada, she tilts her head to one side and wonders about where he finds the time to think about saying such things. When he opens his journal and reads aloud the same words he just used to tell her all about the indecisive iceberg, everything seems to fall into place for her. A look comes over her face: sudden awareness that he’d never say anything out loud he hadn’t already written down (or imagined writing down) to tell her later.
He loves her and she has brown hair. He plans to write about her beautiful brown hair at some time in the future, as soon as he can, and come home after work, tell her all about it before it gets dark.
“Has my time finally come round, brother?” he asked the executioner, who stood by patiently, ax in hand. Because he was hooded and constrained by statute from speaking, the executioner did not reply, but their simultaneous presence at that very spot, standing opposite each other, separated only by the oversized chopping block at the appointed hour, spoke for him.
The prisoner made a low bow. The executioner took full advantage. Soon it was silent and they were both welcomed home.
The executioner’s mother, having lost half her sons, wept.
One sister, mad, alone and despairing, stood arms outstretched, motionless on the track. The rail, as rails must, sang under the weight of the train, and the sister, bereft of song, stopped singing forever.
The other sister, later, curious, leaned too far over the railing of the trestle hoping to see where her sister had finished her song.
In the morning, passersby, unaware of the relationship, finding the second sister lifeless on the graveled rail bed, marveled at the coincidence of two women, dead at the same spot, less than a week apart.
After the five-day holiday, after almost a week of sleeping in and napping at will, he’s unprepared at half-past five to face the fact that it’s another workday to be endured, to slavishly slave away. Routine works best to overcome inertia, he thinks, so he goes out to the kitchen, sets the coffee brewing and turns on the morning news. A scoundrel’s in office—no news there—and by the time he’s brushed, dressed, and ready to go the coffee’s ready, too. He fills the travel mug, kisses his lover goodbye, and sails out to face the day ahead. It’s not until he’s almost half-way to work he reaches for the cup, takes a sip and frowns. It’s awful and he can’t imagine why. But then it comes to him: no brandy.