by P Joshua Laskey
It’s been ten days since the hatchlings disappeared. We’ve seen their parents, but we never actually saw them. We thought we’d seen signs of young life, but now we’re not sure. A peep of a beak is pretty hard to confirm with a staunchly present mama dove sitting in the way.
We watched them through the kitchen window, our mourning doves. We watched them fledge an earlier brood and were looking forward to contributing our witness to their second family of the season. But it’s been ten days since the hatchlings disappeared.
We’d watched them choose our fence for their nest, our mourning doves. Then, we’d watched them choose our twigs for their nest—picking through the yard as if they could tell one bit of deadened wood was better than another. Deliberate, mysteriously decisive parents—who’d chosen our fence for their nest. We’d even watched them choose each other for their nest. Natural selections?
Then, we’d watched the reddish-breasted male bring food—and comfort—to his mate through the long days she was in her confinement—both times. He’d sung—and stood watch.
We’d watched the stalwart female weather sudden showers and unseasonable heat—protected only by a few meager leaves from a bit of overhanging bush where they’d chosen to make their nest on our fence with our twigs with each other.
We’d watched them take turns flying away to fetch food for their offspring—the first time around. And we’d watched those very same offspring picking through our wood chips looking for food on their own—copying papa, under whose watchful supervision they were growing into doves who’d someday choose their own fences, and twigs, and mates.
It’s been more than a month since the first pair took flight and we haven’t seen them since. We were eagerly awaiting the coming of their siblings. We watched. We waited. We delighted in papa’s red tinge and mama’s upturned tailfeathers whenever she shifted to a new—but probably just as uncomfortable—position during her second confinement. We felt truly god-parental towards these unseen hatchlings—who vanished, without a trace, ten days ago.
We’ve seen their parents. Together—on the peak of a nearby roof—still visible from the kitchen window. We’ve even seen them on our fence—“our” being inclusive of them as well as us. We haven’t heard them coo, though—in the last ten days. Before that, they cooed every time they took flight. From “our” fence. From “our” yard. From the peak of the nearby roof—which belongs to neither of “us”.
Are they truly mourning doves now? We know we are.
If you’d lit the match, you might now be watching the particles of soot and ash dancing in the glare of the floodlight in your own backyard, contemplating how they not only represent the lives you’ve destroyed, but are also literal bits of them floating unconnected on the warming night air. If you’d fanned the flames, you might now be amused at how the winds of fortune could’ve changed so dramatically after blowing through whole subdivisions of backwater cities and down remote main-streets in backcountry towns to suddenly be carrying embers to your very doorstep. If you’d poured gasoline on the fire, you might now be wondering which Jake from your department figured out your guilty little pleasure and managed to take you by surprise from behind, gag you, blindfold you—badly—and then hogtie you to a patio chair, where you’re still sitting, waiting for a final blaze of poetic justice.
P Joshua Laskey currently writes in Sacramento, California. He is co-founding Artistic Director of Theater Galatea and founding co-publisher of Indomita Press as well as Associate World Literature Editor for The Literary Review. His published work includes original, adapted, and translated plays as well as original and self-translated short stories and poetry. For his work, he has received the Toyon Literary Magazine Multilingual Award in Translation, Multilingual, or Spanish-Language Writing, which was awarded to a self-translation of one of his short stories. Find out more at www.pjoshualaskey.com.