Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Answer #179 - Kite Builders

There, through the window, what characters wake up?

Robert dreamed of mercury.

     The bedroom below was full of kites; kites in boxes, in repair on the workbench, on the floor and hanging from the ceiling. Blue cement was the unfinished sky, as were the walls,

painted with kindergartenish, puffy clouds and V-birds with no bodies or feet. In the bedroom sometimes Robert dreamed of liquid mercury oozing from the twin bed posts and floating above him in silvery blobs in and around the black V-birds; beautiful poison bubble kites with no strings, just floating silver and cold.
     There were signs of a great flood in the years before Robert lived in the small house; high water markers here and there in the main floor rooms. None upstairs. None in the basement. Robert made notes and did the calculations. He read old newspapers on microfilm at the library and gathered stories from neighbors as to how very nearly the hand of God had swept all of the houses away.  Robert wondered if the house could somehow be anchored to the live oak in the yard, should God reach down again. The tree had been there centuries, surely and could maybe hold a small house? He'd drawn a sketch of the mechanism but frustrated by the mathematics of maximum potential force that the watery hand of God might exert (because who could know just how angry God might become?), he'd wandered away from it years before and it lay in a stack of aviator articles, meteorology journals and colored paper.
    Robert finished the dishes and glided to the back porch in search of clouds. He did this every night. The illusive dark clouds were his current fascination, and the wind had come in off the ocean, bringing them with it. Not the cumulus clouds, but the low stratus, filled with rain, like dark blankets - they were what he was after and he was patient. The most patient man he knew.
    Bits of colored paper blew through the field beyond the porch - bits of discarded kite making their escape, tumbling, occasionally catching air. Some windless nights, he saw something at the horizon; what must be the light of a train back behind the trees, though there were no tracks. It always moved at steady speed with a discernible doppler blue as it approached.  It never arrived, though. Not even the night he heard the train whistle pleading. He'd jumped off the porch, he knew he had, though he was a rational man and therefore there could be no train heading for him to smash the house to bits on its way through the tangle of old houses and sheds in the borough. But the light and the violent, pleading whistle said otherwise, so Robert jumped.