Is it just me, or do the birds sound off-key today?
Gabe was sitting on the porch doing his crossword when I walked up from the trail. He had the frayed porch quilt on his lap. He looked at me over the top of his glasses, partially because he knew how much it annoyed me.
Off key? He said. And then he laughed a little and shook his head. I sat down beside him on the bench. I’m serious, I said. Just listen. Listen to those crows, it sounds like their voices haven’t cracked yet. And there’s an owl who’s either too old or too young to get the right tone.
I felt him looking at me for a moment before he went back to his crossword. I leaned back on the bench beside him.
Something’s just not right, I said. And even the birds know it. It’s way too early for it to be this warm, to be this dry. And look, Millie is still sniffing around by the forest, by the giant woods. She was whimpering along the trail, but kept pace so I knew her foot wasn’t hurt. And she would’ve stopped if she was spooked.
He set his crossword puzzle and glasses on the small iron table beside the bench.
How about some coffee? He said. Which was really just his way of saying, “OK, so this is what we’re doing. I know I was sitting here enjoying my crossword puzzle and it might’ve looked like I was bored, so you thought it necessary to pull me into your crazy. Which is fine, I will catch up, I always do. But let me get a cup of coffee first. And then you can tell me all about your certainty in the signs delivered from the woods.”