Fiction: Death in the Phoenix’s Next

This is the opening to a short story/novella I wrote several years ago.  I never published it anywhere, so I thought it would be fun to post it.  Sometime ago, I posted another scene from the story.

The plot is loosely based on the last half of the Shakespeare poem The Phoenix and the Turtle and has to do with death to achieve true love:

Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d, in cinders lie.

Death is now the Phoenix’ nest,

And the Turtle’s loyal breast
To eternity doth rest,

Leaving no posterity:
‘Twas not their infirmity,
It was married chastity.
Truth may seem but cannot be;
Beauty brag but ’tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.
To this urn let those repair
That are either true or fair;
For these dead birds sigh a prayer.

More than a bit pretentious. But I was working as a receptionist at a boat dealership during the economic crash of 2008.

People everywhere were losing their homes, automakers were flying to Washington on private jets to ask for money, and John McCain suspended his presidential campaign to save the economy while Sarah Palin put lipstick on pigs.

In essence, no one was buying boats. So I literally had nothing to do. They gave me a TV. So, I fell in love with Oscar Wilde and wrote an 80 page short story.

This was right smack in the middle of my infamous “eight jobs of 2008,” after which I decided that maybe I wasn’t cut out for the workaday world, and then dyed my hair purple and joined a band a traveling gypsies for the next four years. From which, I have never truly left, although I have long since given up on the purple hair and simply settled for a tattoo. Nevertheless, enjoy the story opener. It was a lot of fun to write, and brings back a lot of memories.


Chapter 1:  Death in the Phoenix’s Nest

The virgin rays of sunlight tentatively explored the inky lake sky, bathing the water in a glassy pink and red. A score of birds rose to greet the maiden morning, aroused to song and dance by its innocence. The night wind puffed one last carefree lake breeze, and handed her shift off to the morning air. A snake slithered into the water, intimidated by any truth the light may bring, and the keepers of night retreated, knowing the dark had once again been safely ushered into dawn.

The sprawling glass house stood against the lake, foaming waves creating a shore just beyond the bedroom. Phoenix lay under the half-light and lit a cigarette. He looked over at her curled in a blanket at the far end of the bed. He prayed she wasn’t awake yet. She smelled the rancor of cigarette smoke, swore silently, and pretended to be asleep.

He rose. The mattress tension stirred her. She curled tighter into the down blanket, causing a slight rustle. He paused. She lay still. She studied the evolution of pink light into orange, and how it changed the mud colored lake. A drawer opened. She waited for it to close. Another drawer. She imagined him sifting through a stack of neatly folded shirts.

And…it should close right about…now…she waited, a few seconds passed, and then a few more. She fought the urge to look up at him. She waited, wondering if he had perhaps already left. Then it finally slid shut. The bathroom faucet came on. She counted to seven, and then it shut off. The closet door opened.

She pretended she slept through the wood and metal hangers scraping against the wooden closet rod. She listened to him tie his running shoes, and a slight clatter as he grabbed his Ipod off the bed table. She heard the front door shut. He was gone. She once again gave in to her hot and salty tears, calling them cathartic, but secretly wondering about the line between catharsis and self-indulgence.


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