The construction ongoing outside my window sounds less like muscled men with beer bellies putting together semi-affordable housing in exchange for a regular paycheque (with the side effect of gentrifying a neighbourhood with an undeserved reputation for seediness) and more like the purposeful, spastic actions of a subterranean mammal building a nest of found objects, scratching, digging, scritching with delicate, fibrous materials, assembling a home in the wet of the earth to pass the cold seasons unharmed.
These men in their grey and green bear knives in gloved fists, in place of claws and sharp teeth. Their orange vests, reflective, a sort of camouflage for the job site. Terse conversation, even at meal times – only alarm calls sounded, warnings, the occasional ribald joke that sends a round of laughter skyward.
chiaroscuro portraits – a story circle
Chiaroscuro portraits on her bedroom wall. She tunes the radio with a smooth glide of her wrist, but hears nothing but static. Beads of sweat emerge at her brow, and she goes over to her collection of records – a few dozen scuffed 45s stacked in milk crates. Her fingertips, dry skin flaking, flick through the records. The sound they make is like a skittering insect’s many legs.
She selects a post-fusion jazz trio featuring Etna St. Dames on synthesizer, spools it onto her record player, sets the needle.
No sound emerges from the dusty speaker.
She scribbles the needle across the grooves but hears only rhythmless static. She yanks the needle and it comes off in her hands with a soft click. The static goes with it. She touches the plastic portrait frames, their subjects silently staring.