Alycia’s New Boots

“The whole place was filled with birds!”

What? What kinds of birds?

“What do I look like? Birds. That’s what kind. Bird, birds.”

What were you on?

“Nothing. Some green.”


“Fuck you, though, there were birds, thousands! Ask Alycia. She was there too, with me. And don’t bring up the UFO, that was six years ago.”

That was two years ago. Two.

“Whatever. Listen, though. Alycia saw them, and I don’t think she was on anything more than me. What’s funny, fucker?”

I’m trying not to bring up the UFO.

“Forget it, then.”

No, no. Go on. You broke into a shoe store, and there were birds. So what? And you never answered me about why you were in there in the first place.

“I said!!– Boots.”

What boots? You can’t just say “boots?”

“Ok. Boots. Alycia saw these boots in there like last Saturday. They had suede and all. She wanted to steal these boots.”

She couldn’t wait until morning? She couldn’t just buy the boots? You had to break into a shoe store in the middle of the night because she saw these boots?

“I don’t know. Yes. That’s not even important.”

OK, what’s important? There were thousands of birds in there. Then what?

“Well, then what was… we had to decide what to do.”

Why? You couldn’t just get the boots and leave?

“Did you ever walk into a shoe store full of birds? If you ever did, you wouldn’t feel like just leaving. I mean, you wouldn’t just get the boots and leave.”

Really? What would I do?

“I don’t know. You’d probably call the Audoban Society.”

I don’t even know what that means. You’re losing me.

“Sorry, fine, just don’t be like that.”

Like what? OK, don’t pout; let’s hear it. You had to decide what to do.

“So Alycia, being Alycia, decides she wants to let all the birds out of the shoe store. I mean, they weren’t just sitting there, they were flying around and everything, flying into walls, bumping against the ceiling.”

What did they look like? Were they little, big? Black, brown, paisley? Crows, doves, eagles, what?

“They were all kinds. I mean, there were brown ones and black ones and there were very tiny little baby ones. It was hard to see. It was night and everything, and they weren’t sitting still. They were flying, right? Like birds. It was crazy.”

Fine. What next?

“So Alycia holds the door open and starts like whooshing out the air with her hands, like she’s trying to get a bad smell out of the place. She’s whooshing these birds, right? I’m watching her and I go, What are you doing? ‘I’m trying to get the birds out,’ she says. I said, Well you’re doing a pretty great job. ‘Gotta better idea?’ she says. I said, Maybe we shouldn’t be messing with these birds. Maybe they’re here for a reason. ‘Right,’ she says. ‘This is a bird prison. These birds are doing time.’ ….Well maybe they belong to the store owner or something. I mean, how did they all get in here? What are they doing in here? They didn’t all fly down the chimney.”, I said”

The shoe store has a chimney?

“No, it doesn’t have a chimney. I don’t know. That’s not the point.”

What’s the point? Tell me.

“What other point do you need? Think about this. Think slowly. This is like… I don’t even know what it’s like.”

I just don’t see where you’re going with this. What happened? What did you do?

“Well, we got into an argument. Alycia wants to get the birds out of the place, rescue the birds. I want to leave them alone. I would be content to sit there. I mean, I’d just sit and look at them. Think about it. If you find thousands of birds in a shoe store, you’d want to look at them for a minute, right? I mean, you’d at least not try to get them out. Not mess it all up. Right?”

I have no idea.

“You know what it’s like? Being in there and all? It was like I was filled with birds, too. I mean, like I was the shoe store and I was the one filled with these birds.”

Oh yeah? And what does something like that feel like? What does it feel like to be filled up with birds?

“Like everything. It feels like everything all at once. Like the birds are everything and you’re full of them, so you’re full of everything.”

I don’t know what that means.

“I know.”

So what’d you do?

“I left. Alycia decided to stay and help the birds.”

What, you left her there?

“What else was I gonna do? I wasn’t gonna help her get these birds out when it was pretty clear that we shouldn’t be messing around with them. And she wasn’t going to leave. She barely even noticed I was there anymore. What could I do? Stand around and wait for the police to get there? So fuck it, I left her there.”

Well, then what? Have you talked to her?

“I haven’t seen her today. No.”

So…what, she could be in jail or something?

“She would’ve called me if she went to jail. No. I don’t know. I’m sure she gave up eventually and left. I’m sure she was like fuck it, and went home. Eventually. It was pretty clear to me that those birds didn’t want to go anywhere.”

How’s that?

“I don’t know. I can’t explain. It’s just a feeling. You had to be in my shoes. You had to be in that shoe store, and then you’d know how you felt.”

Oh, you think so?

“Yeah. Maybe. I don’t know. Probably, I think.”



The Directions

The directions say to stick tabs A and C into slots B and D, respectively. I probably could have figured that out on my own, but it’s important to follow the directions. They have a perspective you don’t and can sometimes foresee potential problems that you, with all your inexperience, might lack the visionary quality to pick out.

The directions say to fit piece 32 onto piece 126 and then to clamp them together. The only problem is that I’m already using the clamp on pieces 77, 34, and 241. The directions say don’t talk back and just do as I’m told. So I pull the clamp off the other pieces and put it onto 126 and 32. The directions say that’s better and if I insist on holding an argument session every time we attach two pieces, we’ll be here all night for sure.

The directions say to thread the securing cable through the grommets and tie the end down with a symmetrically collapsing double reef hitch knot. I ask the directions how to tie that knot, I don’t know that one. The directions say just tie it. I tie a square knot, and the directions don’t say anything, so I guess they don’t know either.

The directions say to paint all exposed surfaces peach. After I’ve done so, the directions laugh and say that’s the oldest trick in the book, and how did I get to be so gullible? The directions say what’s that on my shirt, and when I look down they flick me in the face with their finger. The directions are really having a good time now. It pleases me to see them so happy.

The directions slowly return to seriousness and around a few random chuckles, they say okay, enough is enough. Time to get back to work, they say. The directions get me to building the framework. While I’m busy with the adhesive clips, the directions start talking about politics. The directions are opposed to the second amendment. They feel the whole thing’s outlived its usefulness by about 150 years. We should just admit that it’s an obsolete portion of the constitution that is no longer applicable in our current situation. The directions have a lot of opinions. They seem to have the facts and figures on everything. I guess that’s why they’re the directions, and I’m not.

The directions say to take a break, there’s some pink lemonade in the fridge. I go to get a glass and see my cat’s severed paw lying on the kitchen table. I go back into the workshop and say what the hell’s going on here? The directions say that’s in retribution for my being such a smart-alecky punk who thinks he’d be just as well off without them. They say to think of it as a warning. The directions say I’d better start flying the straight and narrow or next it’ll be my fucking legs. I believe them too. They might just do it.

The directions pull a couple of beers out of the cooler and twist off the caps before handing me mine. We sit and drink our beers and then get back to work, there’s still a hell of a lot to do. The directions say to fit all the outer panels into place, starting at the bottom and spiraling upward, counter-clockwise. The directions say to rivet each panel to the panels immediately below the other panels and to the sides of the first.

The directions say to spray the aerosol sealant over the whole thing and then leave it to dry while I begin to assemble the electrical harness. The directions say that it’s awfully difficult having to be right all the time. The pressure’s unbearable, they say. Just for one day they’d like it if they didn’t have to tell anybody anything at all. The directions say that unfortunately without them around looking over us, all sorts of havoc would take place. The directions say that they dream of finally being able to stop.

I worry that the directions are potentially suicidal. I watch them as closely as I can, considering the delicate wiring I’m engaged in. I try to keep the conversation flowing. I ask the directions if they have a girlfriend. The directions answer that sometimes they do, but usually they don’t because as I can probably guess they tend to be a little authoritarian sometimes. The directions chuckle mercilessly. I tell the directions that some buddies of mine and I have poker game every Thursday night–low-stakes stuff–and that they should join us next week. The directions say that sounds like a terrific idea. I point out that it’s dealer’s choice. The directions say they understand, and will certainly do their best to cope.

Round about 1:30 in the morning the directions give me some square blue pills. They tell me not to ask what it is, just take them. It will keep me alert and sharp while I push through and finish the project. The directions pop two of the pills themselves. The directions leave me long enough to go out to an all-night donut place and pick them up a half-dozen lemon crullers. Other than that, though, they stay close to provide moral support and make sure I get all the details correct.
With the help of the directions and their pills I am completely finished by sundown the next day. The directions clench their hands in anticipation when I first fire it up. I smile at the directions, they smile back at me. We exchange a high-five and I come back down off the contraption.

I’m glad I didn’t try to bite off a project of this magnitude without the help of good directions.