Melancholia, I

The snowflakes taste funny. They're falling from the dark clouds above - those ones above pulsing in a black column as if spewing from a coal train. I can hear the soft clatter of brush against paint can, a sound like night crickets, from the door at my back and Loki comes out every hour or so to consult with me. Sometimes I change a mark or smudge at the paint lines, edging them into shape; but mostly I just nod and duck back out the door again.

Loki doesn't live at the bar, it just sometimes seems like he does. He showed me the back kitchen, where the refrigerator's only mildly musty and the sink runs extra hot. He struck up a deal with the landlord - a fat man with a flat face who also minds the bar Sundays - and nabbed me a bed "under the table," he said. Under the kitchen table, turns out, but he brought me a couch cushion to make up for it.

Dysnomia doesn't know where I sleep. I saw her yesterday and had to turn down a bed in her basement. I don't need her permission for what I do.

Loki's come out again. His hair's fallen out of the ponytail and the tips of it are dappled yellow and red, as if he were using the hair for brush bristles. I remember someone telling me Van Eyck did that, because horse hair wasn't fine enough for the detail. Loki pulls me up from the ground to take a look at the piece again. I nod. The others don't seem to be paying much attention to me. I see Loki box a short, freckled boy in the ear, saying, "Get up! She needs a look at those wings, boy!"

When I'm done, I go the back way through the kitchen into the bar. The barman is watching the news on the television tucked below the bar and cleaning a glass. His eyes are fixated on the screen and his dish towel squeaks along the cup's edge without him taking notice. When he feels my breath at his neck, he snorts and moves aside so I can see.

"... swearing in of Deputy Chief of Staff Lyon will take place this Saturday, in the McAdams courthouse square," the anchor intones. "The public is invited to attend, although specialty seating will be assigned and standing room is limited. The swearing in will be in conjunction with Mayor Wilkerson's memorial service to be held later in the day."

An electric bell trills in a four-note call and the anchor sits infintesimally straighter. "In our developing story out of the east, a fire at the former Planet Ocean aquariam is still in an uncontrolled burn. Fire crews have been on the site for several hours and at this point are attempting to wet the surrounding lots, calling the building a complete loss. Arson is suspected, though the investigation is pending..."

I run to the sink and thrust my jaw under the faucet. I can still taste the black snowflakes.

The End

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