Brindal and the Long Day
by Chris Yodice
This day would be longer than all others.
This concerned Brindal. He had watched the sunrise, as was his wont, and on this morning it lasted for the greater part of one year, possibly longer. He sat unmoving as the first red rays glared through pinholes from the east and then slowly (slowly) melted across the land.
He had learned long ago to watch the birds. Their flight reflected the passing of time itself; their days were always the same. At first, in the dark, he thought that there were none. But as the weeks wore on and the sun moved only incrementally over the horizon, he noticed them. They moved as it did: not in direction, but in time. The light ascended in its achingly selfish way and the birds appeared from the side, progressing only as a crack branches out over the face of a great stone. It was not surprising that Brindal had not noticed them.
He looked toward the center sky and cursed himself. There was one, a sizable gull straight ahead, sitting motionless far above the sun. He should have seen and known what this implied, but in its stillness he had looked right past it. He thought of his mother and the songs she once sang to him.
Brindal did not like the long days; they took so much from him. This was his worry, and he had never experienced any day such as this.
Neither, however, did he like the short days. On those days he no longer ventured out. Not that he could, really; by the time he reached the street, the sun was setting and the day was done. It was not this lack of productivity that bothered him, it was the apathy (antipathy) of others. It was as if they forgot that they, too, had short days.
He was much too vulnerable on the outside as they moved about him; he, nearly still as a statue; the quick ones — and not only the children — buzzing around him, sometimes pinching, sometimes poking, always too fast to even catch a glimpse of. And, anyway, it was easy enough to sleep those short days away, although he never felt rested afterward.
The man briefly pulled at his thick mustache and looked to the outside. He saw people, but not many. Taki, his neighbor, was at his front door, unmoving. Had he been there all along? Brindal wondered. He could not be sure, but it was clear that his friend (friend?) was having a short day.
The two had not spoken in a long time; their days had not fallen together since they were boys. And Brindal was convinced that on one particularly short day, Taki had tipped him like a dozing ox. Brindal did not see him, of course, but as he fell, he smelled a hint of musk and dark tobacco, a distinct smell that emanated perennially from Taki’s small cottage.
Brindal decided that today he would be the better of the two and would watch out for Taki, keep the crowds away. It would occupy some time at least.
He noticed a woman. She moved from one end of the road to the other in barely more than the space between two blinks. He pitied her. For her, the sunrise must have been a decade. What was it with this day? The woman would surely wither by nightfall. As well might he, for he had no idea how long (long) the day would turn out. But she would surely go first.
It was years later when he saw another. She was houses down, walking toward him, and she seemed neither stone nor light. His heart leapt and the tedium of the years (day) receded. He walked to the end of the long room, toward her, it would seem, and waited. He stole a glance at Taki; his neighbor had reached his walk’s end: five steps down.
And then the woman came by. Brindal walked with her, the two in parallel lines, separated by his front property and glass window. But they moved together, step for step. She did not notice him as he stared, walking all the while. Brindal realized that he knew her.
He had noticed her two mornings back, on a day that for him had indeed lasted only one day. What joy it had brought, to be perfect for such a short while. He had risen in the first light and watched the sky bloom from pink to blue, not through years or mere seconds, but over one slowly sipped cup of hot, black tea. The birds overhead performed a ballet of flight and falls. Seeing them dive and spin and move as they were meant to filled Brindal with a lightness in his breath and mind. He quashed the loneliness that threatened to cloud his morning and he stood at his window, king for this moment.
And on this perfect day he went out. That was when he saw her. She had been a girl, out on the street with a gray woman: her mother, he assumed. Brindal, of course, knew better than to trust his assumptions; he had seen children age past their parents, living through too many long days. The two had stood together at the front of a field, looking toward him. The girl did not move but to turn her head, ever so slowly; the woman, not at all.
On that day, the girl had been young and now she was old. But her face was the same — a distinct profile (ugly), Brindal thought — and she was spry enough of step.
Then she was out of sight and he was alone again. Brindal pulled at his socks and moved quickly toward the front door. A tune ran in his head, notes climbing repeatedly in a continuous phrase. Brindal was not worried, neither about catching the woman nor, anymore, about the long day; yes, the day might end him, but he knew as long as he was no more than a few steps behind, he would not lose the woman. He would pick up his pace and fly through the streets, avoiding any slow ones on the way. And he would find her. He imagined that they would walk and talk; he would make her tea. Maybe they would dance.
Let the others be still or blaze around them, the sun glare down from the sky.
They two were in time.
Copyright © 2010 by Chris Yodice