Rhythms in Tobacco and in Fog

He’d be in a big chair, with a fire going.  We’d be smoking pipes and drinking brandy.  Every once in awhile he would stop reading and we would have a discussion about what he just read. Who was this learned traveler? I only remember this conversation like a dream. The last words I told him as he left were blown back at me, oval mouth lined with moustache and tobacco crumbs.

‘The fog gathers in the corners, in your lungs. It settles in your soul. Button up your coat.’


When he left I felt numb.  Even the fire failed to restore the usual invigorating flow of my blood.  Dawn was placing long hands on windowsills and still, there I was, blowing on embers, my breath slow and painfully rhythmic. I was trying to grasp hold of stability, buffet squirming thoughts into steadfast pattern.  Suddenly Crenshaw hurled his feathered body like a small cannonball into my arms.  He pecked the soft roll of skin beneath my chin, determined to have my eyes on him.  I brushed off the bird and vaguely heard him scuttling into the kitchen, sulking no doubt.  I heard the lid of the biscuit tin lifted, crashing to the neatly swept, hard-dirt floor.  Moments later Crenshaw flew into the fireplace, gingerbread sticking from gullet.  Aghast I saw him perching on a flaming piece of coal.  My pet!  Crenshaw opened his beak to let out a horrific scream, more fantastic than any other scream known to birdkind. I lurched forward, pulled out the raven and sat rubbing his smoldering talons.  Crenshaw swallowed laboriously as I massaged his belly.  He tipped his beak back in bliss.  My thoughts never ceased to circle the occurrences of the night before. I got up, pacing the small distance between fireplace and kitchen.  Crenshaw lolled in my arms, little saucy tongue hanging out.      


The day continued wandering, slightly unsteadily on her feet.  Near the edge of afternoon the front doormat had small frost crystals forming.  I sat on a wooden block, watching the crystals and drinking spicy tea.  Near me Crenshaw sat reading ‘Spirits of the Dead’.  I had been perusing a volume of the travels of a contemporary adventurer, and wishing myself on the ocean or in my caravan, at least, when I decided that my pet had had enough morbid literature to last him his entire life.  The sun was going down, leaking last rays of warmth across the cobblestones.  Freezing and starving, I kicked aside the doormat and opened the house door.   We prepared a gigantic pot of vegetable stew, with bay leaves.  Suddenly Crenshaw let a carrot drop that he’d been chopping with his beak, and with a shriek left through the north tower window.  Used to my pet’s antics I shrugged my shoulders and continued with the stew until a potful sat neatly bubbling over the fire. 

It was late that night when the raven returned. I’d fallen asleep with several books across my chest, scent of leather bindings lulling me into a deep sleep that took me to foreign lands. Crenshaw appeared with head feathers sticking up like a little punk.  He sat with rain gleaming on his blue-black feathers, exuberant smile lurking in his shrewd eyes.  Around his foot was tied a ribbon, black, with a lunar shimmer to it.  I took hold of it, curious and suddenly wide-awake.  Where had this inquisitive raven been?

There was no doubt about it – he must have visited Lady October.    



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