There had been a roof collapse at a convention center in Katowice, Poland, an exhibition of racing pigeons. It was on the television at the café, above the day-old carrot cake. She had been saying that the sound of the espresso machine was reminiscent of mourning doves, which was a lie, it was a sound like a death gargle, like throat cancer, like Alzheimer's and dark tenement hallways, but she had been saying it, that shit about doves, when the television showed a gray snowy scene and bloody people coated in drywall dust, staggering. She said, then, that she had only said it because she was still somewhat high on mescaline, which was another lie. She had been conditioned by her childhood to be romantic, she said; she couldn't help it. It was a reflex.

This last one may have been reasonably apt. He didn't care, anyway, about her lies or her blood stream or any dead Poles. He looked at her hipbones and at the way her apron hung and he had ideas that involved rope and candles and lead pipes and wrenches. He was not creative, sexually, but he was thematically bound. He had been thinking, all morning, of the set of little plastic pieces in the board game Clue.

Her secondary compulsion was ignoring his gaze. She covered this, slightly, by saying that one of her eyes was blind, prone to wandering. She needed to innovate what was already there. She was an acrobat, of sorts, defying gravity with chance, adopting methods of subterfuge, camouflage. She said the moon was waxing when it was full. In childhood, she told him, she had raised racing pigeons herself, but it all tied back to an uncle - a wicked man with milk breath and tapered fingers - and she did not want to talk about it.

He took this opportunity to tell her what he wanted to do once both his hands had a grip inside her.

The closed sign is blue. The open sign is red. In all arts, improvisation is privileged within its limits. Certain acts accomplish themselves in the back room, or this is how she thinks it, as if not only her role - wrists bound, apron string cutting into the sides of her mouth - were passive, but his, too, bound by pattern or fate, tracked according to psychology, the moment constructed like a Jenga puzzle, an accumulation of essential pieces.

They walk together under the transformers, the power lines. Wires run through glass spools which are also collector's items in Ohio, or so she says. She knows she's tired when her lies become plausible to herself. This is something she read somewhere? How? He says his grandmother had several of them, green and blue and that transparent which we call white, arranged along a windowsill in the sitting room, to catch the light. So the lie was either not a lie at all or he has been drawn into it, gotten so drunk on the exchange.

She bleeds from several spots. They are not going back to her parents' place, and the lie she tells about living with an angry ex-boyfriend doesn't play any role in that. They are not going to his place, either, and this becomes clear when he says goodbye, which he says in simpler, crueler terms. See you around sometime, he says, and she realizes, as he turns at the corner and takes a few jogging steps toward the waiting cross-town bus, that she knows nothing about him, nothing but the way he touched her, which could, in turn, be an aberration from his routine or could be what defines him, his normal behavior. Though either could be what defines him, she thinks. She is so sleepy. There is a trickle down her leg, and she remembers the smell of the cote, the chortle of them all as they circled or lay placid.

Maybe false memories are all anyone has, she thinks. There are some lies that can't be checked, lies for which there is no confirmation, either way. She likes this. She likes to wiggle loose teeth, of which she has, now, two, molars, where it stings, a deep stretching feeling.

So she doesn't go back to her parents' place, either. She's more awake now, thinking about imagined childhoods, thinking about the surreal coincidence of the night, how easy it had all been, and how she will explain it and the response it will earn.

Her angry ex-boyfriend's light is on, and his guitar. She leans against the buzzer with her eyes shut and her tongue against the loosest tooth.

She wants to open herself to it. Whatever the fuck it is.

The buzzer gets answered and the sound of the lock releasing is, she thinks, like the first harbinger note of a roof collapse, a ping and rasp, delicate and near-musical, before the fall, the slaughter.

About the author:

Spencer Dew lives in Chicago. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Juked, Thieves' Jargon, The 2nd Hand, VerbSap, Wandering Army, and Word Riot.