I watch Abe under the eaves of night. We’re outside, on the balcony of an opulent estate, just beyond the doors of the main hall. He sits on the concrete banister, overlooking the rolling grass hills. Look farther and one can see the white waves of the North Grimlantic crashing onto purple rocks.
One of Abe’s legs dangles over the edge of the balcony. He’ll perpetually look ten-years-old. Even with a bottle of 1787 Château Lafite clutched loosely in his small hands. I watch him swing the bottle around wildly, bring it to his cold lips, and drink it, drink it, drink it. Almost draining the entire bottle. I see it slipping from his hand, but he quickly tightens his grip.
‘Where’d ya steal that from?’ I ask.
From the main hall, the sounds of the gala practically drown out my question.
Abe looks away from the ocean. His eyes, red and half-closed, find me. ‘Hmm?’
‘Where’d ya steal that from?’ I ask louder, gesturing to the valuable bottle.
He smirks like the devil he has been known to be. ‘Our host’s personal collection.’
‘Do you know how much that’s worth? Because it’s worth more than our lives.’
Abe holds up the wine bottle, inspecting it, closely. Then tosses it over his shoulder. It lands with a distant smash on the ground below the balcony.
My mouth hangs agape.
‘Isn’t worth shit, now.’ Abe laughs and rocks.
I peek over the banister. The old glass is everywhere; the wine is splattered over the pebbled ground. ‘Well,’ I tell my small friend, ‘it was worth over a hundred thousand dollars.’ I look back at him.
He’s drunker than I’ve seen him. I wonder how many other two-hundred-year-old bottles of alcohol Abe’s imbibed. He sways like a scarecrow.
‘I’m gonna have to go,’ he slurs. His head turns from me. He looks up. I’m sure he’s connecting Grimstars. Making up his own constellations.
Leaning against the banister, I ask, ‘Yeah, where ya gonna go this late?’
Abe faces me, once more, and gazes at my shoes. ‘I’m thinking I’ll go to the Outer Grims. Yep… got to go… to the Outer Grims…’ He says it with no trepidation in his voice.
The Outer Grims. Not a place for the weak of body nor of mind. If it’s even a place, which I’m not so sure it is.
And so, this is why my strange friend has gone and drank himself into a stupor tonight.
‘Me!’ Abe shouts. He teeters on the edge of the balcony. I imagine that he is going to tumble over the edge at any moment. ‘I can barely function as is. And now! I have to bring a bird back to my counter.’ He groans.
‘You have to deliver a bird? That’s good, that’s funny,’ I say, laughing.
Abe laughs, too, despite the fact that he will soon be in the Outer Grims. ‘I’m gonna have to walk with it! I’m gonna have to carry it! What kind of bullshit is that? I ask you!’
I look through the doors, into the gala. The guests inside mingle, and drink, and dance, some cry to themselves, some flaunt their unending wealth.
‘Look at that Gatsby shit in there!’ Abe waves his hand dismissively at the party. He spits onto the marble tile.
‘Where’s the bird?’ I ask.
Abe is silent. His head hangs and bobs, and soon he stares at me, open-mouthed. He’s more sloshed, more destroyed than I realized.
‘Not here yet. Nope.’ He speaks through the haze of alcohol. ‘It’s a fuckin’ parakeet.’ His eyes roll.
‘Where is it?’
Abe shrugs. ‘Don’t know. Gonna be some voodoo shit. Some weird shit. Not gonna be a normal parakeet. I know that already. Shit.’
He stumbles off of the banister, his leg getting caught. I catch him and stand him up as straight as he can manage. He brushes his lapels and pats his collar.
‘I gotta go,’ Abe says. ‘I gotta see my counter.’
I hold my hands up, stopping him from walking around me. ‘You need to wait. You’re in rare form, right now. You ever even see your counter before?’
‘No… no. Never saw her.’
‘How do you know your counter is a girl?’
Abe taps his head. ‘Intuition…’ Then shrugs his shoulders. ‘Fuck, I don’t know.’
He sidesteps me. ‘Abe,’ I reach for his arm. But, there no longer is an arm. There is a wing. Then two wings and tail feathers. And a beak dipped in deep yellow. A beak like a rising sun.
He is a starling, beating his wings above my head, and rising higher. He calls and sings, the notes of a pan flute.
I watch the bird under the eaves of night. It takes flight over the rolling grass hills and skirts the white waves of the North Grimlantic. I watch as he leaves, along a sea of time and through a wall of space, for the Outer Grims and his counter.