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John Brantingham: Easy Or Hard

Image: Unsplash, downloaded ( 13.08.2022.

Crows That Weep for Peanuts, 1977

In the spring, Wanda likes to sit with Carl on the porch after dinner with a handful of peanuts that they toss to the crows who know to meet them there. Wanda, who has buried one husband, is preparing herself to bury this one too, and she’s not sure exactly what Carl is doing to prepare.

The way he talks since the diagnosis, she thinks maybe he’s pretending that it’s not going to happen. This evening at dinner he was telling her that he always promised himself that he’d see Germany after it was rebuilt. He’d been a colonel in the war, and always hated the way they’d had to raze so much of it.

There had been something hazy about the way he spoke about it, both a slurring of his words and his ideas, and she thought about calling the doctor, and then he seemed to snap out of it. Now, as she is tossing peanuts to their friends, she turns to him to say something and finds that his eyes are closed, and she wonders if he’s resting or if this is the end.

She cocks her head and stares at him. The doctor said that the passing might be easy or hard, and she has been praying. If he is gone, this is what she’s been praying for, a passing without fear or pain. She thinks also that he might just be napping. She thinks also that he might be close to passing and that if she stirs him now, he might not slip away. So she rises gently out of her chair and sits on the last step of the porch.

The crows bounce close to her. They trust her. They like her. She tosses them peanuts one at a time. Normally, she would talk to them, but today she’s silent and glancing back at Carl. She’s giving them their treats more slowly than normal, and one of them caws at her in his impatience. She turns to her husband, but he has not stirred.

She takes a peanut and does not toss it to them. Instead, she holds it above her head, and makes her arm still, all the while watching Carl. The crow caws and then again and again. Carl does not stir.

Wanda turns away from her husband. She has seven more peanuts left, and she wants to dole them out slowly, to make this moment before the moment last for as long as it can.

About the Author: John Brantingham was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks’ first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines, Writers Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016 and 2022. He has nineteen books of poetry and fiction including Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press). He is the founder and general editor of The Journal of Radical Wonder. He lives in Jamestown, NY.


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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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