- The Widening Gyre
Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus):
An Arctic bird of prey of the family Falconidae, the gyrfalcon is the world's largest falcon with an adult height of two feet (60 cm) and a five-foot (160 cm) wingspan. The species' diet consists chiefly of other birds, normally taken on the wing. They kill cleanly, breaking the back of the victim.
When I was twelve, I fell in love with Maude Butler from my English class, and my father bought me a Daisy BB rifle, took me in the backyard and showed me how to shoot sparrows as he stumbled over the birds and bees. I wouldn't kill them, and he said that was why I'd never kiss Maude Butler. When he went inside, I found the nest of parentless eggs in the mulberry tree. Hiding behind the wisteria bushes, I thought of Maude's pink lip balm as I threw the eggs in the air and tried to shoot them. I think I wanted to find something inside, embryonic, glimmering and featherless, captured in flight, if just for a moment. I was too slow to aim, and the small eggs cracked against the grassless dirt near the fence. My father walked out again and found me squatted over them, looking at their insides. I can't recall if either of us said anything then, when we looked at each other, but he let me keep the gun. I know I've never talked to you about my father before, nor anyone really. Maybe the way things have evolved, maybe now, maybe it makes a difference.
A few weeks later, he showed me how to balance an egg upright on the kitchen counter. We got out the carton and stood them up in a little breakfast platoon and he bet me five dollars I couldn't do the same thing the next Sunday. He quietly took my money and made me clean the yolk and broken shells. I didn't figure it out for years. I don't think he and I ever really let me love him, and for years that was at the center of my world.
The last time I saw him, ten years ago, he was kneeling in prayer on the banks of a pond in Cypress Park, four blocks away from the house where he began to raise me. The gulls swooped over the water and caught silvery things in their mouths. He knelt there, head bent, his back to me. He couldn't have known then how sick he was. [End Page 24]
That was my sixteenth birthday. He hadn't lived at the house for three years. As far as I was concerned, that's how I would always remember my father. So when my mother called me at the end of this past July and told me they had found his body in Phoenix, all I could say was, "Sounds right." The iron in her voice was more angry than mine. We talked about the service.
"If you're going, you better call Rebecca," she said. After thirteen years, the name of my father's second wife still slid and broke like shale when my mother said it. "She wants to have an idea of how many people to 'accommodate.'" I thanked her, but said I wasn't going to be able to get away from the workshop for a while. It's a tired lie I use without even thinking about it anymore.
They buried my father on the first of August. It was a quiet, unassuming service. No one had much to say. That's why I didn't go.
After the divorce, I used to wonder what it would be like when one of my parents died. If the world of the living half would unhinge its jaws and finally consume the other. I wondered if there would be closure for any of us then, we who had learned to divide our love and time between two cities, or if the dead would sit in our stomachs forever, stretching the ribs like pleurisy. I wondered if it would feel like the end or...