Leaving the Nest

In a small, 2-bedroom apartment in Davenport, Iowa, a maintenance man noticed on a routine inspection that Apt. 34 was lacking a fire extinguisher. He also noticed small bits of white and yellow paper that littered the apartment and piled up specifically outside a door that was barred shut. He left a note for Marla, the owner of the apartment, inquiring about the mess and explaining where her new fire hydrant would be placed. Marla called first thing the next morning to leave a message explaining her dog’s incontinence, “I figured I’d isolate the problem” she chuckled, and apologized for the confusion.

When her husband slept, Marla created small, origami doves and placed them beside him as he dreamt. Sometimes, by pure accident, he rolled over onto one of them — causing Marla to have to walk on the cold, hard-wood floor all the way into the den where she kept her craft supplies, in order to make up for the loss. One day in particular, Marla was in the kitchen preparing lunch when she heard the faint crunch of one of her dainty designs. It was an accident she repeated over and over under her breath until she was towering over Chase and the flock of paper doves.

“What has happened?” she whispered between her hands clasping her mouth.

Chase was motionless. Small specks of light crept in from the boards blanketing the windows. The specks spotlighted the doves as they sat peacefully and undisturbed in the river of blankets covering him. His eyes moved left to show her the wounded soldier. She exhibited full control while lifting the small dove from its nest. Surgical in her examination of the dove, she concluded it was beyond repair.

“You know what that means,” she squawked as she left the room.

The only time Chase was allowed out of restraints was for a weekly smoke break, but only if he maintained good behavior. For weeks he had 2 matches wedged in between his big toe, hoping that on his next break he could utilize the freedom more affectively.

Every Monday Marla met a friend for risotto at a café down the road. The café displayed two different risottos every Monday and always had a line out the door. Marla’s friend’s name is Kat and as they chatted, Kat wondered how Chase was doing but doesn’t mention it, seeing as Marla got defensive with even the slight mention of his name, and grew increasingly distant with each meeting they had. Marla knew her anxiety was noticeable, so she tried to prolong the encounters to minimize suspicion. This time, she seemed more distracted than ever. To combat this, Marla stared at the menu for an extra 10 seconds and read an entire article in the bathroom to buy some time. When someone entered the café, a small bell around the doorknob would clang against the door three or four times depending on how the consumer chose to close it. Marla noticed that when Kat stepped outside to take a phonecall, the bell hit five times instead of the usual three or four. She found the change in clang intentional, as if Kat was trying to prove a point, and this sparked a wild excitement inside her.

Later that night, Chase watched Marla tie a small silver bell to the bedroom door.

“Now you can tell how I feel about you based on how many times the bell hits the door” she said.

Chase shuffled his legs in place in response. He frequently found, in the midst of his unending solitude, that the wings of the doves could be shaped differently, and that Marla really cut-corners in her constructions in order to produce more. He thought, that if the wings were bent slightly at the tip that they would be more realistic, since doves rarely are in a setting where their wings are perfectly spread, especially in the instance that they are sitting down. If a dove is close enough to Chase’s restrained hands he could sometimes bend the tip of the wing. It pleased Chase to feel like he was helping.

It took Marla almost 3 months to realize Chase was modifying her masterpieces. Whenever she had to change the ropes that restrained him, for they would fray and wither, she would marvel at the sea of doves and touch every single one to her lips in reverence. This particular morning, she thought it might have been a shadow casted upon the wings — which wasn’t uncommon, for the sun would shine differently through the boards depending on its height in the sky. Though after careful inspection she realized what had happened. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?, crumbling each dove in her hand as if they were bad drafts of a story. Do you know how long it will take me to restock?

As Marla left the room, the silver bell chimed six times. A record. Chase felt feeble and lonely in the bed without his companions. He counted the hundreds of wads strewn throughout the room until he eventually slipped into sleep.

Weeks flew by before Chase was allowed another break. It was a Friday afternoon and the light between the boards had just hit the fresh wings of the new doves that enveloped him in bed. Marla was feeling particularly kind on this day, for the most recent batch of birds was immaculate and she was beside herself with contentment. She watched as Chase lit his cigarette and just for a moment, she considered, things could be different. He tried to prolong the break, but a cigarette burns at a painfully consistent rate. After his last drag, she led him back inside. He rubbed the still-lit cigarette bud in his hands as he followed her into the bedroom where the doves mingled in the sunlight. Upon entering the bed, he released the matches into the sheets where his feet lay as she tightened the ropes that clothed him. She turned back before leaving the room, something she is known to do only to scold him, but this time she glanced at him with a tinge of concern; as if for the first time, she felt that this punishment wasn’t suitable. This made Chase hesitate momentarily before wiggling the matches up to his restricted hands — a process so tedious that he felt tired for the first time in years.

That next Monday, as Marla left for the café, Chase carefully stroked the matches against his rope in hopes of creating friction. Ultimately, on the 9th strike, a small fire emerged and he wasted no time flicking it into the sea of doves. He watched each one burn somberly, like a candle at a liturgy. By the time Marla returned home, the fire had reached the wooden boards on the windows and Chase’s rope had been scorched. He waited restlessly as she approached the open door that displayed a thick fog of red and black. Without hesitation, she soared into the den to rescue her supplies from the growling fire, as Chase sats perched at the edge of an open window, cradling the doves in anticipation. He looks into her eyes as he lets each one go, one by one, allowing her to see just the beginning of their tender descent downward into the street below. Some would get swept away with a gust of wind whereas others flew south onto the curb. Just as the last one flew — Chase gravitated down himself.

Marla frantically plunged down the stairs to rescue the objects of her affection. She picked each dove up and held it upwards into the sky. She even exalted the ones that were beyond repair, never looking once in Chase’s direction.