he man and woman walked slowly along a footpath through
a vast grassy field. "What is it you wanted to show me?" she
asked, but he didn't answer. He held her hand firmly and
tugged at her from time to time as though leading her along.
She was startled when a flock of blackbirds burst from a
small tree and filled the grey October sky with their chaotic
flight. It was then that she noticed the tennis court.
"This must be private land," she said, but he ignored
After all but a few of the blackbirds had settled in
another, more distant tree, he said, "You should always pay
attention to your dreams."
"Surely not every dream."
"A dream is your way of telling yourself what you most
need to know."
Turning toward the tennis court, they continued to walk
through the dried grasses and desiccated queen ann's lace and
milkweeds gone to seed. She looked up as three crows flashed
by, calling, and asked, "Whose land is this? Whose land are
As though she hadn't spoken, he said, "What did you
dream last night?"
She drew in her breath, reluctant. "I dreamed about a
"A strange bird," he repeated.
"It was hurt, and I was caring for it. It was a big
bird, something like a thrush but bigger, as big as a hawk.
It had strange eyes."
"A strange bird with strange eyes." He laughed quietly.
"I knew there was hope for it. I fed it with an
eyedropper. It was very warm, and I could feel the pulsing
of its heart as I stroked its breast."
"So what happened to it?"
She sighed a long and shuddering sigh. "You came and
told me it couldn't survive. Then you wrenched its head to
one side, quickly and sharply."
They walked in silence until they reached the tennis
court, and by then she realized what he had in mind. "We
can't," she said, pulling away from him. "Someone is sure to
"They only play here in the summer. In the fall it's a
love nest built for two." He opened the gate and pulled her,
resisting, onto the tennis court.
She struggled half-heartedly as he began to unbutton
her shirt. Then, without knowing why, she helped him make a
rough bed of their clothes on the asphalt. This was by no
means the worst place, the most exposed place, the most
humiliating place they had ever made love.
Afterwards, he stroked her hair. He was always very
tender afterwards. "I just don't like birds," he said.
"There's something uncanny about them." She began to cry
First published: May 1998