Rain fell all morning but I decided on a walk anyway. I don’t recall precisely what time I left my flat, it may have been close to noon, but I donned my yellow mackintosh, my Wellingtons, and fetched my peacock from his gated pen. An iridescent blue and green beauty, his train blazed with gold-rimmed eyespots. He struggled momentarily, but his conditioning kicked in and soon enough he grew calm and malleable. I exited into the ongoing downpour and opened up the peacock and held him by his ankles. As I walked west, an easterly wind forced me to angle the peacock behind my head and lean slightly backwards as a counterbalance.
Needless to say, I encountered many people with peacocks—a few like mine, though arguably not as brilliant, but also a vast variety of them. I saw peacocks with green and gold plumage, some of jade and taupe, black-and-brown striped ones, and even one of Buford bronze that must have cost a bundle.
I saw one man in a grey sweat suit walking without an peacock and despite being drenched to the bones, he looked cheerful. I wanted to stop him and ask for an explanation, but I feared he might react violently, for I’ve discovered that men walking about without heeding the elements can be violent. Indeed, most men possess an innate capacity for violence. Women and children know this all too well. And yes, some women are violent, no question; we see them on occasion in the headlines or on our feeds—mothers drowning their babies, or poisoning unfaithful or abusive partners, and so on. But these are anomalies, often driven by mental or emotional instability, or in some instances legitimate grievance. With most men, the violence comes naturally. This is not news.
Several years ago, during a Christmas holiday snowstorm, a man dressed in red long johns accosted me as I walked home laden with gifts purchased at the nearby mall. The madman didn’t rob me; he merely rousted me and scattered my gifts around the snow with his bare feet. A mixture of fear and pity rendered me impotent to defend myself. He ran off shouting, “Fuck Sant Claus! Fuck Santa Claus!”
So I continued walking and it continued raining and my thoughts hurried and scurried about because I’d stopped taking my antidepressants the week before. My psychiatrist had warned me about stopping them abruptly, but I’d grown tired of the flatness of my moods and the dryness of my mouth. Moreover, many of the problems besieging me several months ago, however self-manufactured, had receded. My psychiatrist would’ve argued that this proved beyond a doubt the efficacy of the medication. But I would’ve shot back that my problems were never biochemical in nature. That they involved greedy ex-wives and hateful children and cauliflower-eared loan sharks and debilitating regrets. And now that these problems had been to some extent quieted if not altogether resolved, I needed to be myself again, without the flatness, without the dry mouth. I must report I felt somewhat ebullient walking in the rain with my peacock, refreshed, alive, my senses in high register, my face beaming.
I continued walking, briskly now. My runners were soaked, and splatter had struck my shins, but on the whole my peacock managed to keep me dry. When I had left my flat I had no idea where I wanted to go, except that I felt compelled to go somewhere, despite the rain. But here I give nod to the felicities of walking in the rain.
And yet, a dark pensiveness overcame me, reviving old failures and shortfalls and reminding me of new ones. Though I’d never been a physically violent man, I’d often wielded my tongue like a dagger, and therefore had hurt countless people too mealy-mouthed or obtuse to defend themselves. Like a set of ugly tableaus, my past life flashed by me and with each memory my shame and self-loathing swelled. And then there came before me a figure, a weary looking man in a drenched trench coat, wielding a limp, discoloured peacock. As I neared him he looked up, pale, pelted, gaunt, lamentable. I suddenly felt better about myself.
The man opened his dripping mouth and said, “So then nothing, nothing, in this stinking life, the ugly faces, the heckling, the hatred and venom, the polluted air, the beastliness, the greed, nothing will escape annihilation in the end. As all good things go, so will the bad hahaha.”
I found myself nodding under the protection of my peacock.
“Like what I said?”
“Nihilistic, but well-phrased,” I said. “You made your point.”
“Give me your peacock.”
The man came closer, dead peacock at his side. “I said give me your peacock, asshole. I didn’t say asshole the first time, but I’m saying it now.”
“You’re trying to rob me?”
“I’m not trying. I am robbing you. One way or the other that peacock’s coming with me. It’s been a long, shitty day, and I don’t feel like getting blood on my hands, so if you don’t mind, give it here and I’ll spare you.”
I sized him up and realized not only that I towered over him, but I must’ve outweighed him by fifty or so pounds. I glanced around; the street was empty. I briefly thought of dashing away, but then I would’ve tortured myself for my abject cowardice. In the past I had been a coward, but my current stance was that even dying beats the terribleness of lacking a spine.
“Hurry up, asshole,” the man barked now, rainwater rilling off his plastered hair and dripping off his sleeves and his dead peacock.
“How about I give you enough money to buy a new peacock?”
“I don’t want your charity, asshole. I want your peacock.”
“That’s the third time you called me asshole. My ex-wives liked to call me that.”
“Well, maybe because you are an asshole. Ever consider that? Now give me—”
Before he could finish his sentence, I whacked him across the face with my peacock—I wasn’t thinking clearly. The man had triggered me. A poor weapon under most circumstances, the peacock’s ultra-violent reaction proved effectual. The man fell to the wet pavement and began flopping about like a fouled soccer player. I found his behaviour confusing, but also irksome. Likely a ruse, I thought.
“Get up,” I said, checking my peacock for damage. I didn’t feel like dropping another wad on a new one. “I don’t want to hit you when you’re down.”
He continued carrying on, bellowing and groaning.
“Enough already,” I said. “Those are flesh wounds.”
At that moment, three passing youths in black hoodies without peacocks stopped and asked me what was the deal. They looked like they’d just climbed out of a swimming pool. The rain further blurred their pale and unremarkable features.
“Buddy tried to steal my peacock,” I said.
“And you gooned him?” one asked.
“I didn’t goon him,” I said.
“How do we know you didn’t goon him and take his peacock?” said another.
“Because this peacock’s mine, okay?”
“That’s a fancy peacock,” said the third youth.
“Damn that’s fancy,” said the first one. “You don’t look like a fancy guy.”
“And he does,” I said, pointing to my still prone assailant.
“Did he goon you and take your peacock, buddy?” the second youth asked the man.
“Yeah,” he lied, “exactly that. Forced me to take his peacock and give him mine.”
The third youth retrieved the dead peacock, lying a few feet from its prone owner, and examined it briefly, as possessing the ability to deduce from this the details of the incident.
“Yours?” he asked me.
“No,” I said, shaking my peacock, “this is mine.”
“Prove it,” he said.
“Go fuck yourself,” I said staring him in the face, though the ongoing downpour obscured his expression and demeanor. “Out of my way before I stop being polite.”
At that moment I heard a popping sound; then I felt beset by a million angry hornets. As my limbs stiffened and I fell to the ground, I suffered the horrifying realization that the bastards had tasered me. I’d never been tasered before, but I’d heard horror stories about how painful it was. I’m here to attest firsthand that all rumors, reports, and anecdotes about the terrible pain of tasering are true. If anything they’ve understated the pain inflicted by a taser gun. As my body spasmed and my mouth foamed, I saw the youths circle me. Then one hoofed me in the side. So overcome by the stinging nettles of the taser, I barely felt this blow. He kicked me again, and again. Then the other two joined him. I felt nothing but my body and head jerking back and forth. The metallic taste of blood filled my mouth as the youths and the rain continued pelting me. I blacked out after a few minutes of this.
When I came to I was utterly soaked and it felt like every bone in my body had been beaten by hammers. I touched my teeth—several of them had been loosened. I probed my skull with my fingertips for any fractures and dents, but except for a few tender contusions and lumps, it felt intact. I staggered to my feet. My left knee gave out and I sank again to the pavement. After a moment, I stood up and tried to move, keeping weight off my left leg. Gone was my peacock, and the youths, and that bum. Of course he’d left behind his dead peacock. It lay by the curb like drenched feather duster. I picked it up and hobbled home, cursing under my breath.
No need to describe the two weeks that followed, the pain and gradual recovery, the shame and private humiliation. I didn’t go to the police or call an ambulance to take me to hospital. Nor did I tell my psychiatrist about the incident. I kept it all to myself. I applied antibiotic ointments and bandaged the wounds myself. I comforted and consoled myself. If anyone asked what had happened, I’d say I suffered a terrible rock-climbing fall, though I’d never rock-climbed in my life. I wasn’t about to tell them the truth.
A month or so after the incident, I felt fit enough to stroll around my neighbourhood. It was a pleasant evening, cool enough for a light jacket, refreshing. I walked around the block trying not to peer into the little bungalows and the dramas unfolding inside them. People were living their lives. All they asked for was peace and quiet and bit of scratch to pay the bills and laden the table. They never thought for a minute they were asking for too much.
In my walk through this life, I have found several things to be unassailably true: time passes, time heals all wounds, and also, if you injure your neighbour, better not do it by halves. Revenge will be sweet, my friends. Revenge will complete this terrible cycle, will close this circle. I grab my yellow Mackintosh, my Wellingtons, and the dead peacock—which I had kept bagged in the refrigerator. It’s symbolic, the dead peacock. It represents the current state of affairs. It also can be used as weapon, if necessary. I head out into the rain. There’s but one thing on my mind: to find the bastard who has my peacock. I scrutinize everyone who approaches me with a living peacock. I walk about in the rain with the dead peacock for hours with no luck. I walk around full of self-loathing and shame. How did I let this happen? Now I have to live with it until I die. I walk and walk in the rain for hours, sopping wet, rainwater dripping from my nose and my fingers and the sodden dead peacock. It is an act I will repeat many times in the coming years, untold times.
Salvatore Difalco is the author of five books, including BLACK RABBIT & OTHER STORIES (Anvil Press). Recent short prose has appeared in Brilliant Flash Fiction, Cafe Irreal, and Gone Lawn.