By Chris Conroy
Two men meet in the park. It’s not a planned meeting. They went out for a jog and when they were done, they both sat on a bench in the park, across from one another, about fifteen feet apart. They were friends in High School but have not spoken in years. They see each other—they know—but pretend they don’t. One unties and ties his shoe lace. The other plays with his wrist watch. They are both named Bill. A couple walks between the two Bills. They’re eating crispy slices of pizza. The man stops. The woman says something to him. He puts his hand on his chest and collapses. His pizza crust tumbles from his hand when he hits the ground. Pigeons battle for it. The woman drops to a knee still holding her slice. The two Bills watch this for a few seconds and then stand up. They take out their cell phones like two dueling cowboys. They punch in 911 and move towards the downed couple. The woman pulls a stringed whistle out of her shirt and blows it. The sun reflects off it; a glittering crucifix in her pursed lips. She blows again. A policeman on a bike wearing a helmet speeds up to her. The two Bills back away. They take pictures with their cell phones. The cop and the couple and the pigeons. Click. They’re too close now not to talk to each other. That would just be weird they think. At least now they have something to talk about.
“It’s been awhile.”
“That was something, huh?”
“Tell me about it.”
“He looked fit.”
“He did. Really.”
“You never know.”
“I thought you looked familiar.”
“So, how are you?”
“I’m teetering on madness.”
Sirens sound. An ambulance rolls up and the crew hustles out.
“What is it? The madness?”
“Birds. In my head. Chirping. It’s constant.”
“The volume. Does it go up and down?”
“And at night?”
“The worst. I can’t sleep.”
“I thought I was going crazy.”
“You hear them, too?”
The EMTs are gathered around the man like a swarm of ants. They pound at his chest and hand each other medical devices. They count: “three, two, one” and try—several times—to bang life back into him. They wipe sweat from their pimpled faces and foreheads. The woman who was with the man is smoking a cigarette. She extends her bottom lip when she exhales. They were supposed to go to the circus. It was their third date. They hadn’t had sex yet. She liked him and carried a whistle because she was deathly afraid of dogs. She was ripped apart when she was fourteen by her neighbor’s mutt. The doctor told her to always carry a whistle after that. The whistle had her name and birthday engraved on it. It was real gold. Her father bought it for her. It made her feel safe. The deep scar went from her right hip down past the back of her knee. It healed well. You had be a close friend, her lover or in her family to see it. The dead guy didn’t even know she carried a whistle.
“I think he’s dead.”
“Sure is. You never know.”
“So, besides the birds…what else? What are you?”
“I’m a urologist.”
“Isn’t that something. So am I.”
“Are you married?”
“Divorced. No kids. Remarried.”
“We should get a drink some time.”
“We should. We should catch up.”
“Do you still play the guitar?”
“Come on now, Bill.”
“Time. It flies.”
The two Bills say goodbye without shaking hands. The ambulance drives away. The woman puts her whistle back inside her shirt and calls her father from her cell phone. The sun changes shadows on the ground.
Bill’s second wife is naked on the bed when he comes in the room. Her legs are spread wide and she’s working a tiny vibrator over her clitoris. Her other hand is pinching her left nipple. Her hair is wet from a shower. CNN is muted on the TV. Bill walks up to her. He pulls his shorts down to his knees. His legs are hairy and white and weak. He grabs his limp cock and works it in front of her face until it’s hard. His head is killing him. She stares at his cock and smells him. He waits for her to come. She comes with her eyes closed. He jerks off harder, faster. He cups his hand out in front of his cock and ejaculates into it. He makes a fist over the hot semen. He grabs for the tissue box on the nightstand. “No,” she says and grabs the box, “let me.” She takes out a tissue. He opens his hand and she cleans it. “Thanks,” he says pulling up his shorts.
“How was your jog?”
But he’s already in the bathroom. He opens the window and stares out from the 66th floor. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. A gust of wind blows his hair back and, with arms spread like wings, he steps up and out of the window.