By Vincent Barry
As you walk west from the bird refuge on Cabrillo Boulevard, you pass the back of the Santa Barbara Zoo. If you’re alert you may see to the north, as you pass, a giraffe. If you’re not, there’s always “Mar Pacifico” and, perhaps, the roar of a lion.
I know this because I’ve traversed this path, to and fro, twice a day since my nerves went wrong. It has a way of holding them at bay, my clamorous nerves.
Today—was it the eightieth, the ninetieth, the hundredth day of my tramp?— a palm gazing pair advanced into a fading sun, their droopy heads swaddled in earphones.
Her free hand clutched to her bosom a wisp of a dog with black-rimmed eyes and stick out ears like butterfly wings. His held on a rope leash a Ridgeback wearing a thick, pebbled collar with shiny metal grommets.
A lion roared like a thunderclap, that’s the thing, and . . . and, well, the Ridgeback froze, then jerked its head to the right, the grommets spraying tender sun rays on long soft shadows like so many mirror balls on an empty dance floor.
“Ah!” said I to the twosome in passing, I don’t know why, “He remembers,” and pointed to the riveted Ridgeback.
From them no word came—not a peep, . . . not a nod, . . . not a jot of alertness. Only the cadaverous silence of droopy flower heads.
A crow rent the air.
I pushed on, feeling foggy and lumbering, my hands worrying nervously in my pockets, my lips forming words unspoken.
I pushed on, against a brooding view of the vast, inky offing and the white waves beating on the strand, murmuring a bit sadly, I don’t know why, “‘Our very life depends on everything’s recurring till we answer from within. The thousandth time may prove the charm.’”
Funny, but I hadn’t thought of Frost in— well, at least not since I felt as though my feet were sinking in wet sand, and kept sinking.
Vincent Barry’s affection for creative writing is rooted in the theatre. More years ago than he prefers to remember, his one-act plays caught the attention of the late Arthur Ballet at the University of Minnesota’s Office for Advanced Drama Research and Wynn Handman at New York’s The American Place Theatre. Some productions followed, as well as a residency at The Edward Albee Foundation on Long Island. Meanwhile, Barry was teaching philosophy at Bakersfield College in California and authoring philosophy textbooks. Now retired from teaching, Barry has returned to his first love, fiction. For his other stories, see: Writing Tomorrow Magazine (“Dear Fellow Californian,” June 2014), The Write Room (“When It First Came Out,” Fall 2014), Blue Lake Review (“The Girl with the Sunflower Yellow Hot Rod Limo,” December 2014), Crack the Spine (“A Lot Like Limbo,” Spring 2015 print anthology), Pure Slush (“Blind Suspicion,” January-February 2016), The Vignette Review (“Nodding on the A Train,” Winter 2016), The Tower Journal (“The Joiner’s Tale,” January 18, 2016), Apocrypha and Abstractions (“Seduction or Something Else,” March 21, 2016), and Bull (“Reading Hawking but Listening to Grieg,” March 2016).