Of Mice, Men, and Murder as a Lullaby

Driving through Salinas, CA is like driving through a memory—assuming your memories include the collected works of John Steinbeck, which mine do. It is a trip through prose, and the scenery springs to life like so many paragraphs.

So it was that Tricia and I stopped at the Steinbeck Museum and upon leaving I purchased the classic Of Mice and Men. Tricia had never read it. It became our narrative—an audio book without the tape, and an aroma reminiscent of a French Dip sandwich with a couple of beers.

I read aloud as she drove that lonely highway, open and bare with the sun burning bright, the pages were dancing all around us.

I told her about the rabbits.

The road ran on like a sentence, and when it stopped for breath there was a new chapter waiting.

 

There is a murder in our yard. A murder of crows. The silhouette of Alfred Hitchcock is cast upon the bench beneath the mulberry tree, and he is tossing them breadcrumbs and forgotten lines.

They are loud and they have us surrounded. They talk and gargle and sing and yell and the sound of their wings echoes through our now empty home like the pending arrival of helicopters promising napalm in the morning. They are black birds and they sing in the dead of night.

Our house is bare but for the random can in the cupboard and assorted condiments in the icebox. We have two weeks left before we walk away forever, and it will be spent on hardwood floors covered in quilts and children.

Our beds are gone. Our TV is packed. Our chairs are broken laundry baskets and forgotten boxes. Our clothes are on repeat.

We have been working hard. We get up early and stay up late. There is heavy lifting and dirt and sweat. We work until our backs cannot, and then we lie upon a pallet of discarded blankets and the endless give of oak.

It is Salinas in a memory. It is broken wings and all my life.

It is only waiting for this moment to arise.

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