I stood in the cherry tree, the branches, stripped bare. To my west the big church sprawled across its lot, the steeple leaning over like a bent bough. I saw the whole street from high in the cherry tree. Occasionally someone walked by and said something or laughed. I held on tightly to this thin branch because the tree always looked sickly, up here cause I had nowhere else to go but come Spring, oh man, come Spring, when the flowers started to spring and they grew through my body, my skin, through my hands and feet and arms and thighs and everything, cherries bursting out of me like sun flares against the dark.
I could have escaped before the bloom, made a run for the red-bricked house, with the screened-in porch, but I had to blossom in that bright morning sun, this container of joy.
“A parachute is a cloth canopy device to let one descend slowly from the sky or it is the act itself, to parachute, to drop or cause to drop, using the said device. It is one and both,” he says.
I drink my beer. The canned stuff, not the good stuff on tap. He sits next to me at the bar, settling deep into the black plastic seat, his white shirt sticking through the opening at the back of the chair, like a rough handle.
“It’s a weird word if you think about it because you need both sides of it – so it’s a noun on one side and a verb on the other – the struggle between these two words that need each other to work. You need the violent act of the leap, to parachute, in order to effect the use of the parachute device.”
Pete, the bartender, carries the man’s drink over, but before he can set it on the bar, the man takes it from Pete’s hand and chugs it. He slaps the glass down and holds up one finger. Pete pours a shot into the glass.
“It’s like trying to kill yourself while trying to save yourself at the same time,” the man says. “If you think about it.”
Bar time is private time for me. But sometimes you get chatterers. Usually if you ignore them, they turn to their other side and alight on that person. If not, the bartender’s usually their safety net.
I’m hoping that this skinny guy all in black next to me with the baseball cap that sported a team I didn’t know will eventually be distracted by the wall of monitors currently broadcasting six different sports across them.
“Parachutes can fail for different reasons,” he says. He lifts the amber liquid in a glass, probably whiskey, into the air. “It can be caused by a mis-routed pilot chute bridle. Or a too large deployment bag and canopy for its container. I know most people think human error is the biggest fail, either packing it incorrectly or tying down your straps but nope.” He looks at me in the bar mirror, unfortunately, catching my eyes. “Know what it is?”
I shake my head because I don’t want any trouble if I refuse to speak. That’s happened before.
“Incorrect body position on deployment. If you’re not face down, shoulders leveled, there’s a good chance something’s going to get wrapped around you and that’s it.” He drinks.
From the other side of me, a cheer goes up from two guys in matching red t-shirts.
“Although,” he says, waving his thin arm to get another drink, “I heard once that someone got sucked up into a thermal, that’s a current of warm air that rises up, you know, how gliders work without an engine, and it took him so high into the sky, he vanished. Never found. They figure he probably drowned in the ocean or got burned up in the upper atmosphere. I mean, if it’s true.” He waves again for his next shot. I finish the rest of my Asahi, draining the glass, and stand, grabbing my purse off the chair.
“But if the emergency chute fails you, if it doesn’t balance out, they plummet,” he says. His hand shakes, a quake of the flesh, against the bar.
“It’s the end of everything,” I reply. He looks at me and nods.
I place my hand on his hand. The back of his hand is warm. He glances at my hand and nods his head. It’s not sexual.
He makes a sound. It doesn’t come from his mouth, but from deep in his chest, maybe near his heart as if it starts there and crawls its way up to the surface, a small cry in the darkness that you will never find. The last sound of something that has gone terribly wrong and might never be fixed again.
The ceramic pot her husband had given to her on their last anniversary lay broken on the floor. She picked up the pieces and placed them on the kitchen table. She’d learned how to do Kintsugi after the accident that took her husband. She’d had only a few lessons and she didn’t have the talent or patience or even the money to use the real gold that the 15th century Japanese craftsmen used to fix their ceramics. She only had clear craft adhesive glue and Gold Liquid Gilding. She first painted the gilding along the cracked edges to enhance the line of repair. She then glued the ceramic back together, allowing it to set. It had been an awful break. She pushed the two irregular shards together, pushing as hard as she could, and gently placed it down so it could bond or set, as the instructions implied, but she thought of it as nursing the pot back to life, healing it, so it could be good once again.
Ron Burch's fiction has been published in numerous literary journals including South Dakota Review, Fiction International, Mississippi Review, and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His novel, Bliss Inc., was published by BlazeVOX Books. He lives in Los Angeles. Image: Cherry Trees in Blossom, Victor Borisov-Musatov, 1901