On full, dark night in open-format kitchen with streamlined, brushed-steel appliances – open all of porch’s double French doors in invitation to West Wind to pour over slate floor.
Place oval Dutch oven with tight-fitting lid over medium heat; add olive oil; heat until shimmering, ≈ 3 minutes. Add onion & garlic; sauté until onion softens & becomes translucent, stirring occasionally, ≈ 3-5 minutes. Add lentils & spices; stir well to combine; allow lentils to toast slightly, ≈ 2 minutes. Add vegetable broth; stir until well incorporated.
Carefully add shredded manuscript. Observe any stray words: Autumnal; wind-slippered; irrelevance. Consider meaning. Incorporate all slim strips with other ingredients; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover & allow to stew indefinitely.
While waiting, notice Moon’s reflection in countless glass panes; listen to silence; water plants.
With the wind in her hair, she stands barefooted on the clipped, green lawn. Forlorn, despite her youth and utter beauty. “How will I get him home?” she asks. Curled asleep within her smooth, open palms, is a hamster.
Her question assumes a great deal. How to answer, when so much is obscure, unknown?
Fading sunlight gilds the park’s grassy knolls, burnishes its swells and swards. Beyond the lawn’s edges, over the sidewalk on the street’s far side, a clutch of little shops huddles, wall to wall. Their shadows lengthen, creep across the street. She chokes back a soft sob.
In the distance, a throaty rumble sounds, grows louder with approach. Hopeless and hopeful, she glances in the sound’s direction — toward the answer she seeks. Toward the improbable.
Gliding along the pavement, a pair of sleek motorcycles appears – all smoky chrome and gleaming steel. Snugged beneath the seat of each, suspended just in front of each machine’s purring engine, is a hollow sphere of translucent yellow plastic. And, scurrying about contentedly within each sphere…is a white and russet hamster…
The full moon shines over a shattered landscape, illuminates the chunks and rubble of former structures – houses, shops, garages. A perilous terrain of tumbled stone and cement foundations; of splintered beams and twists of toothy, rusted metal; of vertical portions of walls. The moon’s light is kind, pitying; paints all in soft, silver monochrome.
Crouched. A solitary human cast amidst a forgotten collection of debris; on a ledge of broken flooring, near a remarkably intact window. The ledge juts from a roofless, two-story wall that has forgotten to fall. Keep as far from the splintered edge as possible, to avoid slipping, toppling over, out and downward – to avoid the lion that lies in wait below. It moves back and forth through random waste, like an alligator. Occasionally, the lion bunches up its hind legs and leaps, launches itself up through the dark, spreads its talons and scrabbles for purchase along the floor’s crumbling ledge. It need not gain a solid foothold; with each leap and gouge, the lion removes a piece of flooring before it falls back to earth. Soon enough, the ledge will be narrowed, eroded.
Discourage the lion’s efforts. Fling random objects through the dark — a length of pipe; a split two-by-four; a chunk of plaster; a beautifully made antique wood plane. Track each object’s trajectory, hear each clatter amongst the debris below. Hear the lion’s low huff and growl, the heavy pad of its footfalls as it paces, paces, paces. Hear the lazy switch and sweep of its tail as it prepares to leap again.