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06 April 2010 @ 07:53 pm
Aviary | Matthew Parker  
Aviary
Moonshape
Genre:
romance, drama.
Rated: R/NC-17

I felt a strong part of my bachelor life return. I wanted to fuck him right there and then. But I forced myself to think of my dead wife and my motherless children. My hormones deserved no place in my life right now.

I will not risk sending my family to hell. I don’t believe in God. He left me the moment I saw my wife dead. I had been praying in the car that a mistake had been made. Even though I didn’t believe, I prayed Val was still alive. But to no avail. I never believed in God anyway.

But that also meant there was no God to stop me.

I was alone, with two children. No one to control me or tell what was right from wrong.

On the morning of the funeral, I sat on my bed. Family and friends were downstairs, paying their respects to Valerie who lay in the coffin that stood by the window.

I could not go downstairs. I wanted to procrastinate saying goodbye to her. I knew I would blow my chances if I didn’t hurry. The cars would be here in half an hour! But I didn’t want to remember my wife lying motionless in a coffin, not breathing anymore.

I was holding a picture frame. It contained a picture of our wedding day. We were young and happy there. Healthy. Alive.

‘Liam?’ I heard my father call from downstairs.

‘A minute,’ I called back, my voice hoarse and dry.

‘I got up from the bed and went over to the window. I sat the picture down on the windowsill, and that was when I noticed him.

Matthew Parker was standing at the gate of the garden. As soon as he noticed I saw him, he waved. He raised a small lunchbox and pointed at it. I frowned.

When I arrived downstairs, my brother Desmond had already let him in.

‘What are you doing here?’ I asked flabbergasted. This was not the time for him to stop by!

‘I – came to show my respects,’ he said, looking at his feet and raised the lunchbox.

‘You didn’t know her?’

‘Still sad she died,’ he muttered and his eyes were still down.

‘Liam, let the boy pay his respects,’ my father implored.

I hesitated, but I nodded.

Parker dropped his head down even more, clinging onto the box with dear life. He went over to the coffin, his back turned to them.

I could not see what he was doing, but I heard him open the box. He laid something down in the coffin at the height of Val’s hands. And when he stepped away, my eyes widened with surprise.

It was the dead budgie that lay between her hands. The exact same budgie!

A complete silence filled the room, but it was Val’s mother who started to sob even harder. She seized Parker’s hand when he passed her on his way back to me.

‘Thank you,’ she said and held Parker’s hands in hers. ‘That was – too kind.’

Parker didn’t speak but slowly pulled his hand loose from her grip. It wasn’t too prominent, but I had noticed it.

‘He didn’t kill the bird, did he?’ Desmond asked.

‘No, I found it dead a few days ago. It’s ours. I asked him to remove it.’

‘Such a beautiful gesture,’ my father commented. ‘Really thoughtful.’

I nodded sheepishly.

When Matthew stood with me again, I started the interrogation.

‘I thought you had taken it to the park?’ I enquired.

‘I had – but I figured this seemed more proper.’

And that was when I smiled. I looked from the lad to Val and thought she looked rather peaceful now. Why hadn’t I thought of that myself?

‘How did you keep it?’ I asked as I stood next to the coffin, looking down at the bird in Val’s hands.

‘I froze it.’

‘Pardon?’ I gaped as I looked at the lad.

‘You know – I didn’t want it to rot. I groomed it a bit – took out the twisted feathers and then I froze it,’ and he raised the lunchbox again.

‘In your lunchbox?

‘Yeah. And I took it out last night to defrost.’

I stared at the lad for a long time, not knowing if I should be shocked or amazed.

‘Clever,’ was all I said.

‘I know,’ he replied and a proud grin appeared and he finally looked longer at me than five seconds.

‘Thank you,’ I said.

Parker didn’t leave after that. He stayed in the garden ,sitting in tailor sit in front of the aviary. I didn’t want to send him away because he had really touched my heart. So I let him be.

After the funeral, my dad drove the kids and I home. We packed up their suitcases to bring to my parents for another week. I needed some time to settle down and arrange some business with my notary.

‘Don’t forget to feed Tabby, daddy,’ my 10-year-old daughter Abigail said as I hugged her.

‘No I won’t, love,’ I assured her. I’m a cat person. I won’t forget.

‘And the birds?’ 7-year-old Alfie asked. ‘What will you do with them?’

‘Not sure yet,’ I answered truthfully as I lifted the suitcases with their clothes and toys in the boot. ‘Daddy needs time to think about all that – that’s why you’re staying at grandpa’s.’

I waved them off as my dad drove away and I saw them waving back at me through the rear window. I wondered if my kids are too young to understand death. They are so young. They have cried, but they didn’t seem half as devastated as I was.

But Alfie’s question put my mind to work. What will I do with the aviary? I really didn’t know much about birds – but they were too dear to Val to just give them away.

I pondered about it as I entered the house again. I took off my tie and went for the liquor cabinet as well. Some things could wait for tomorrow. I needed to get pissed first. So I took the bottle of Scotch and I didn’t even bother on pouring it in a glass. I took the top of the bottle and threw it down in the cabinet, taking my first swig. I suddenly spotted movement in the garden and when I looked I noticed Matthew was there again. Or still? He was sitting in the exact same spot as when we had left. But that had been hours ago!

I lowered the bottle as I observed him. There was definitely something wrong with him. He stammers, never makes eye contact for longer than five seconds and has what seemed to be an obsession for birds – like Valerie.

I opened the backdoor and Matthew looked away from the birds, but turned back straight away, as if he couldn’t be bothered by my presence.

‘You haven’t fed them,’ he remarked and it suddenly popped into my mind that I hadn’t since Val had died. She refilled the trough every few days.

‘No – I haven’t,’ I admitted shamefully.

‘I gave them some of mine,’ he said and pointed at the floor. He had probably threw the food through the fence because all the birds were pecking at the seeds.

‘Let me give you some back then,’ I said as I took the keys that lay on the window sill next to the door. I walked over to the shed and opened it, filling a small bag with a handful of food and gave it to Matthew, who pocketed it.
I took a swig of the scotch and stood next to Parker for some time. I occasionally looked down to see what he was doing, but he just seemed to watch the birds all the time.

‘Didn’t you leave?’ I asked curiously.

‘Just to get them food,’ he answered.

‘You didn’t do anything when we were gone? You just watched them?’

‘Yes.’

‘Don’t you go to school?’

‘No.’

‘Do you work?’

‘No.’

‘Nothing?’

‘No.’

‘You live with your grandmother, right?’

‘Yes.’

‘No parents?’

‘Yes – but they don’t want to see me anymore,’ and he suddenly dropped his head down.

‘Why not?’ I asked puzzled. I couldn’t imagine a parent who wouldn’t want to see his child anymore.

‘Don’t know,’ he muttered and looked up to look at the birds again.

‘Haven’t you got something else to do?’ I asked and I started to get irritated. Why couldn’t he give me fair answers?

‘No.’

‘No friends? Girlfriend?’

He snorted.

‘No.’

‘A lad your age has to do something – how old are you?’

‘Nineteen.’

There is a long silence in which I felt myself grow more edgy.

‘Matthew,’ I said firmly. ‘Why are you in my garden?’

‘You’re birds need to be taken care of.’

‘And you don’t think I can do that myself?’

‘You said you didn’t know how.’

‘I did – but I suppose I should from now on.’

‘Don’t you need to grieve or something?’ he asked and he sounded annoyed too.

I clenched my jaw together.

‘You’re dismissing me from my own garden?’

‘No,’ he muttered and in all the time we spoke, he had never looked at me for much longer than a few seconds. It annoyed me.

‘Parker, look at me when I talk to you!’

‘I can’t!’ he said.

‘Why not?’ I asked impatiently.

‘I’m – autistic,’ he muttered.

I suddenly felt a rush of guilt flow through my stomach. I had been rude, hadn’t I?

‘Is that why your parents don’t want to see you anymore?’ I asked cautiously.

‘My dad ran off with someone else when they diagnosed me – my mum couldn’t cope so left me with my gran's.’

‘There are ways to live with autism, didn’t they see that?’

‘Not with my kind,’ he muttered. ‘I don’t make contact with anyone.’

Then, there was a silence and I felt sorry for the kid. I sat down on the ground next to him and joined him by looking at the birds. There was something about this kid that I wanted to preserve. He intrigued me and I felt I had to keep him close to get to know him. He seemed fragile and I felt sorry for that. I wanted to help him. And the first idea occurred to me.

‘Matthew – I won’t be able to keep this aviary,’ I said after a long silence as I looked sideways at the lad. He only casted me a short look before he turned back to the aviary.

‘But I don’t want to get rid of it either,’ I continued. ‘So – would you like to take care of the birds from now on?’

He turned to look at me, his eyes wide and a smile appearing on his face.

‘Oh, I’d love to!’ he said as he started to lighten up.

‘I’m going to trust you, Matthew,’ I said as I raised a finger to make him aware of the conditions. ‘You have to take good care of them – I will pay you for it.’

‘Oh, no sir!’ he said as he shook his head. ‘There is no need to!’

‘Come on, Matthew,’ I said. ‘A lad your age needs money, doesn’t he?’

‘I’ve got a relief,’ he added and looked a bit embarrassed. ‘I’m coping.’

‘I really want to pay you, Matthew,’ I added calmly – I wouldn’t feel at ease if I couldn’t pay him! He would have to spend a lot of time on the aviary, like Val always did. ‘Please,’ I added and hoped he would accept my offer

He seemed to think for a few seconds, but then nodded.

‘Great,’ I said as I got up and walked over to the pot under which the keys lay.

‘I’m going to lay this down in the shed,’ I said as I opened the shed and placed the key on a shelf. ‘And I will give you a key to the shed,’ I added as I took the key from the lock and gave it to Matthew as I sat down next to him again. ‘I’ll give you forty quid a week.’

‘Sir,’ he groaned as he took the key from my hand. ‘Really – there is no need.’

‘No – I insist,’ I said as I raised my hand. I wasn’t going to accept any objections.

I held out my hand and suddenly I remembered how he had pulled his hand away from Val’s mother this afternoon. Maybe he didn’t like to be touched.

He indeed seemed to hesitate, but he took my hand and we shook hands. His hands were warm and soft and I felt turned on by it.

I let go of his hand and took my bottle of scotch which had sat next to me all that time. ‘Stay as long as you like,’ I told him and smiled b
briefly before I returned to the house. I drank my whiskey as I entered my study, sinking down in my chair as I began to cry, realizing I had buried my wife today.

Prologue | Melopsittacus undulates | Matthew Parker | Ethanol | The Bard | Stop