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The Kite Flier 

His opening eye caught well the plain geometry of the "v" between the sable pillowcase and the sable sheet. The geometry was of the closet door, closed whitely to the paraphernalia of work and travel. He decided not to open his other eye just now. He would lay here for a while yet.

There are responsibilities attached to these mid-afternoon naps. and not the least of these is measuring the amount of daylight left to the day and deciding what, if anything, should be done with it. No decision came to the bed, and, after a time, he forced the other eye open. Perhaps if he got up and peeped out of the Venetian blinds, the day itself would have something to say to him about its disposal.

Through the blinds, he saw the yard next door. The wispy wind casually pushed the dead brown leaves around. They were from the oak trees, and they would roll and stop and somersault over other dead brown leaves.

Then the wispy wind stopped, and everything was still. The leaves at once looked trapped and stricken, and the only thing to be seen moving was a brown moth, plain and sad. All in all, quite the picture of autumn, which for him had always played like springtime. Time of renewal, time of stirring, hopeful time.

Time for kites.

He dressed slowly and warmly, then opened the closet door and rooted around for the kite and its string. He could swear he heard it sing when he pulled it out of the closet. But he knew better than to get too excited too fast. He walked out into the late autumn afternoon, threw a slump around his shoulders and put on a good-sized frown. All the better to be tossed aside later.

He parked the car and got out and, shivering, held the kite close to his body. He envied the kite for what it was about to do. It was to be his envoy, the soaring part of himself that needed the earthling part to reel him in when it was time.

Blustery day. Lakeside land of rock and sand being petted by a strong west wind, and as the kite flier let out line, he thought what a good day it was for this. The kite went up and came down near the water and then fluttered up, caught an updraft, and climbed high and strong.

The kite had a small face and a long tail of two shades of green. The ribbons popped up in the wind; the long tail of two-toned green snapped, and the kite danced and dove. Three ducks made their churning flight near the kite, and three near-old women walked near the edge of the lake and looked up at the kite for a long time.

The colors of lake and sky were so much alike that the horizon was at first not easy to mark. Then the sun softened and the sky purpled and the water went aqua and the sailboats became little white ways to mark the horizon. As the sun got closer to that horizon, its mirrored self became longer in the water, and little flights of bullbats came down to take turns kissing it.

A speed hull went far out, then turned back in and shut off its motors and suddenly there was no engine noise around. Now could be heard the full chorus of bird cries: the heckle of the crows, the mew of the nighthawks, the complaint of the gulls.

Into the chilled bath of the lake, all pink and orange, the steaming sun sat down with a silent hiss. The kite flier let out most of his line and for a good while was just glad to be part of the wind's world.

He started to roll up the line, and it seemed like there was a moment when the kite became aware that it was time to go. It began to feint in one direction, then another. It stood on its head, and the tail went up and over, and there was a hovering before a plummet.

Soon the line closest to the kite came out of the setting sun, and the connection between flier and flown was clear. The kite began a slow shimmy as it got down to treetop level, a sort of surrender dance. The kite flier's retrieval became slower, more wistful.

Then, as hoped for, a final twisting try to break free. The kite stiffened and surged against the kite flier's fingers as if to say, "I am still here and can still soar. If it is time to go, then I will go because you control me and my time in the skies. But I still shudder with joy when the wind whistles through my bones, and I will still go as close to the clouds as you will let me." In the last few yards, like a 4-year-old boy being tugged by a furious father, the kite came to ground, landing face down in the sand. It thrashed and stopped, thrashed and stopped. Another day's flying was finished.

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