Dying Breed

“I know how you feel,” Elan says to her husband as they sip morning coffee. She reaches across the table and squeezes his hand.

“I knew it was a matter of time before they eliminated my job, too.” Elbart says. He looks out the window at a cardinal pecking safflower seed. “Wonder if that could be one of yours from before they let you go?”

As they watch, the bird flies off crookedly, one wing shorter than the other. “Guess not,” Elan says. “Early retirement isn’t so bad, Elbart. I found something else. You will, too.”

***

Elan is already outside as Elbart backs out of the garage.

She presses
small arcs of silk
to her wrist,
her pulse into the cloth.

He pauses briefly before leaving to admire the kaleidoscope fluttering over the yard.

Along the way, he turns from the highway onto a gravel road that winds along Breezy Creek. He thinks about stopping – what could they do now if he’s late? – but figures there’s no point delaying.

By the time he arrives at work, his station on the lake shore is already packed up, and his boss, Mr. Inemach, is there waiting for him. “Morning, Elbart,” Inemach says. “I thought you could just go ahead and take your last day off. With pay of course.”

“I thought I’d make just one more,” Elbart says.

With a pass of his hand
ferns became feathers,
maple leaves webbed feet.
He created eyes by rolling pebbles
between finger and thumb,
neck by peeling willow branch.
By day’s end a swan
swam the wake of his chant.

“That’s not necessary. But maybe you’d like to see the new process.”

“Not really,” Elbart says.

“Nonsense. I insist,” Inemach says, and the two walk up a berm to the factory.

Inside, Inemach leads Elbart to a production line and pulls a lever. The line stutters forward. Mechanical arms reach into bins alongside it, pull out various bits, and assemble them. By the end of the line, a swan, beak skewed to one side, one leg bent, bumps awkwardly to Shipping.

“A few bugs to work out,” Inemach says sheepishly. “But just think. Twenty a day! Anyway, I’ve got a meeting. Good luck, Elbart. You’re a dying breed.”

***

On the way home, Elbart drives to Breezy Creek again, stops and gets out.

He kneels at the bank,
rubs a flat stone.
Scales, fins, gills emerge,
flip from hand to splash.

Elan is enjoying her butterflies, Elbart thinks. Maybe he’ll take up fish.

David Henson lives in Peoria, Illinois, with his wife. His work has appeared in The Pikestaff Forum, Lullwater Review, Ascent, 7×20, and Literally Stories, among others.

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