The wife thought the husband lacked spirit. He would hunch silent over his breakfast in the mornings, hands pale and cold as his cereal, his hair the color of cubicles. They married because the wife liked a challenge. The wife thought she could open him up, pull out wild Irish weather from inside. But when she tried she found a map of Cleveland instead. Her days grew long and endless as parades.
So one day the wife sprinkled a little powder over the husband’s cornflakes. It was a special powder, meant to make things grow, like spirits, yes, but sometimes eyeballs or teeth or toenails. You could never tell with this particular substance, so the wife crossed her fingers and hoped as the husband slurped up the powder. The husband suddenly slumped down and fell out of his chair onto the floor and as he lay there, the wife took his pulse just to make sure. It was sometimes hard to tell if the husband was dead or just lifeless. As she bent to grab his wrist, the wife noticed a faint yellowish smoke hanging over the husband’s back in the vague shape of wings. A pair of wings. Aha, she said.
It took a week for the wings to solidify. Meanwhile, the husband hardly seemed to notice them. He made room for them when he sat, true, and at night he started sleeping on his side, but he never said a word about his wings. They mostly stayed folded, a long soft lump under his suit jacket. The wife asked him once if his co-workers noticed anything different about him. He looked at her neck and shrugged, and she couldn’t tell if the shrug meant no or yes or what’s to notice, so she didn’t ask again. She waited to see if he would fly. She started finding excuses to spend time outside, taped pictures of birds and planes in flight to the refrigerator door. She talked about taking up stargazing. But nothing happened. The husband seemed to have no interest at all in his brand-new wings.
One night at dinner, tired of wondering, she asked if he had flown. His weak, wandering eyes grazed her chin, confused. No, he finally said. I haven’t tried. Should I? She nodded, exasperated but eager, and watched as he carefully unbuttoned his shirt, lifted his undershirt over his head, arched his back and let his wings slowly unfold. He looked surprised as the feathers fluttered, air currents stirred, but he lifted himself above the kitchen tile. He went up until he bumped against the plaster ceiling. Then he drifted back down to the ground, somewhat awkwardly. He folded the wings away, put on his undershirt and shirt and jacket again, and sat down. He picked up his fork. He frowned.
I really can’t see the point, he said.
Of what, asked the wife.
Of wings, said the husband.
And her days grew long and endless as parades.
Photo by Pam Link