Leetle Keeler remembered how ma had taught him prayers, as she whispered home-school laws on the frozen lakes, the stubbly croplands, and silver-skirted woodlands of his education. One afternoon, glad to quit his fishing hut, LK sniffed until he found a column of air, copped a mulekick, and rode its updraft until his whole world tilt-shifted.
After fifteen or twenty miles of wheeling, he registered the sulphuric perfume of supper. He spiraled, indulging dreams of what it might be. A badger crippled? an unlucky opossum? A stag, its rack now chainsaw harvested?
It had been a prolonged and frigid December in the peninsula, and shovels, poverty, and snow rakes quietly put in journeyman days. However, even blind things registered the air disturbance, as LK landed first in the high crowning limbs of an icy Black Oak, then, after careful consideration and steady rocking, he outfitted himself as wind, snow, and hail to purchase effortlessly atop the neighbor’s roof, before, after further consideration, he dropped to the Fleischman’s front stoop. He arrayed himself in cold-country gear from the Salvation Donor clothing bin. Safety balaclava, jeans, a letterman jacket tallied up to show how, despite huge ugliness, Death could move gracefully in costume. He chattered prayers like a Chippewa in a huddle.
LK was surprised the scent trail led to this spare old saltbox, covered in asbestos shingles and close by a quiet highway, its concrete walkway scraped clear.
He stood there with his red cap, his cold right hand ready to ring the Fleischman’s doorbell. The house bloomed with nascent contrails, the vapors of expiration.
Inside their spirits waited there on the sofa, impatient for death like a delivery from Rip’s Package Goods. He poked his head in.
“Well, are we free to go now, or are we supposed to stick around?” asked David as Karen smiled hello.
“What happened to you two?”
Karen said, best she could make of it, she passed out before the third quarter of the Packers game. “Looks like I slipped on icy steps grabbing vodka from the snow, and here you have it.”
“ I think,” David said, “I hollered three times for her to shut the goddamned door before I passed out and froze to death.”
“Well, before I let you go, let’s have a proper look.”
“We’d rather not. Honest,” said David.
And with that, LK removed the balaclava and his Vikings jacket and his jeans, “All life is sacred,” he said. Then as his neck crimpled and feathers shook, he added, “Let the fear of death never enter your heart. Go in peace.”
Now all alone, LK moved to Karen’s body, and broke her trunk open with his Timberland boots, and put his beak to work.
David lingered, just a moment, jaws agape, before his lift came, a trough of thundery updraft, which lifted him through a kettle of circling buzzards, to some super cell above the land.
A.E. Weisgerber is a writer living in New Jersey. Her fiction appears in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Collapsar, Structo Magazine, DIAGRAM, Jellyfish Review, Shotgun Honey, and elsewhere. Her journalism has been published by New Jersey Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, and The Alaska Star. She reads for Pithead Chapel, and reviews for Change Seven Magazine and The Review Review. She is at work on her first collection. Follow her @aeweisgerber or visit http://anneweisgerber.com