The Red Bird

By James Valvis

Trouble. Wife looks at me, eyes black as hate. She’s got a degree. I dropped out of high school. No matter, but she wants it all. Dreamer. That’s what they call it. She’s a dreamer. I’m in trouble.

We haven’t talked in a week. No food. I spent my last five on gas just to drive around. No job. Neither of us. Last week I lost my job. Randy said he was sorry. I threw a punch, missed. Randy didn’t. I went down. Then they fired me. I never touched anyone. Randy still has his job.

My wife is fucking Randy.

Randy was a friend. Big lips. That’s what I remember. Huge lips that talked and talked. I brought him home one night. Those lips talking. To my wife. I was drinking Budweiser. My wife was drinking rum. Randy was drinking Pepsi. Bastard. He wanted to get it up.

“My father has money.” That’s what Randy said. “Yeah, yeah,” my wife said. He wetted those lips. She inched closer. I looked out the window. A bird was there, a red bird. The bird flew away.

“Did you see that bird?” I said.

“Yeah, yeah,” my wife said. “How much money does your father have?”

“Lots,” Randy said.

Randy was lying. I’d seen Randy’s father’s trailer. The only thing it had lots of was roaches.

“I’m going to get more beer,” I said.

“Get more rum,” my wife said.

She crossed her legs. Randy looked at her. She was looking at Randy. You didn’t have to be a genius.

I walked outside. It was cold. The trees were dead. I started my car, drove around the corner, parked, got out. I returned to my bedroom window. They were there. She got undressed. He got undressed. A sticker pricked me. I looked at my arm. It was bleeding. Fuck it. I looked at them again. She had mounted. She was really moving. She never did with me anymore. I got an erection. She looked up, saw me. She screamed. I didn’t run. What good was it? I just walked. I got into my car, drove.

Next day she was sitting on the couch, drunk. “What did you expect?” she said.

“Nothing,” I said.

I walked past her.

“Goddamn you,” she screamed.

She hit me. My mouth bled. It tasted salty. She hit me again. A ringing in my ears. She cried. I walked out, slammed the door.

I went to work. Parts came down the assembly line fast. Randy walked up. I wasn’t angry. Really, I wasn’t. Then he said, “Sorry.” That got me. The word “sorry,” and I took my swing, missed. You know the rest.

A week later my wife stands. “Good luck,” I say. It’s the last thing I’ll say to her.

“Yeah,” she says, leaves. I hear Randy in the hallway. She’ll keep at it, I think. Every man, lie, dream, curse. I look out the window. The bird is back. The beautiful red bird. It flies away.

James Valvis is the author of How to Say Goodbye (Aortic Books, 2011). His poems or stories have appeared in journals such as Anderbo, Arts & Letters, Baltimore Review, Barrow Street, Hanging Loose, LA Review, Nimrod, Potomac Review, River Styx, Slipstream, and many others. His poetry has been featured in Verse Daily and the Best American Poetry website. His fiction was chosen for the 2013 Sundress Best of the Net. A former US Army soldier, he lives near Seattle.