From the Sky - Part IV

That night, Aunt Sal brought dinner by the house for Dad and me. As I was setting the table I told her about the scarlet tanager, the nest that would soon appear high in the tree, and the baby birds that would be born there. I looked up from the table, and Aunt Sal was staring at me, color draining from her face.

"Birds. Birds at Gio's. Oh, this is bad. Very bad," she said slowly, and then shouted: "Paulie! Come here!"

Dad plodded into the room. He smelled of sweat and roofing tar. He looked tired enough for ten men.

"What's wrong, Sal?"

"Renata must come with me after school for the rest of the year. Don't let her go back to Gio's."

"Sal," he pleaded. "I want to take my shower. I'm tired. I don't have it in me tonight for this nonsense. We've been through this a hundred million times."

"But I had a dream last night, Paulie."

"Oh, for crying out loud, Sal, with the dreams…"

"Listen to me Paulie. Just listen. I dreamed I was in my kitchen…"

"Are you sure it was a dream, Sal? You live in that kitchen! Maybe you were sleepwalking."

"Hush. I was in my kitchen, and I turned and there was Renata. She had a gold birdcage, and inside a blackbird. A blackbird, Paulie. This is bad. Very bad."

"Every week with you and Rae it's something. Only Zia spares me," said my father. "You have an ominous dream. Rae sees some terrible something in a dish of olive oil. Your fortune teller reads something terrifying in the cards. Rae sees danger pooled in the tea leaves at the bottom of her cup. You come, sometimes together so you can gang up on me, and you beg me to save Renata from Gio's curse. The curse of Gio. It sounds like a bad horror movie! Every week you do this. And nothing ever happens. Nothing."

"I'm telling you, Paulie: This time there is danger."

"Yes, yes. Danger, danger, danger. Thank you for the manicotti, Sal. I'm taking my shower, eating my dinner, and going to bed. I'll call you if I see bluebirds in my dreams."

"Blackbirds, Paulie. A bluebird would be good. Blackbirds…they are very bad."

He gave a wave of his hand and left the room. I turned to look at my Aunt.

"I'll pick you up at the bus stop tomorrow. We'll shop," she said. "I need prosciutto and some mozzarella."

I sighed. There was no use arguing. No matter what I said or how passionately I pled my case, I would get off the bus the next day to find Aunt Sal waiting for me.

She bent over and cupped my chin in her hands.

"Be careful, Renata. Your father doesn't believe. I'm not even sure if your Aunt Zia believes. But Rae and I …we know better. Your father mocks the curse by letting you visit Gio. Paulie and Gio are both thumbing their noses at the Fates. You can't do that. You are the one thing precious to both of them. A curse is a patient thing. Be very, very careful."

I promised I would, and finished setting the table, but by the time I'd placed the last piece of silverware the curse was forgotten and I was daydreaming of baby scarlet tanagers with bright red backs and dark, stubby wings.

A scarlet tanager...


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