Rochelle Cashdan

         Cammie and Annie didn't believe me. I could tell that right away when we bumped into each other in Produce.
         "A swan?" Annie said. "You're putting us on."
         "It happened," I said. "Right in Wallingdale Park."
         "No, Leila," said Cammie, "It didn't." Then, more softly, that I told a good story.
         I looked around before I pulled up my shirt. "See this tape?" I said. "He broke three of my ribs."
         Annie looked away. "All right, someone gave you grief.. But he wasn't a swan."
         "I know I might have been partly responsible," I said.
         Cammie looked at Annie. "Let's go to over to Fish," she said. Annie told me they needed squid for their dinner party.
         I stood there for a few seconds. "You don't expect me to believe that," I said. "Dinner parties are history."
         "It's a potluck," Cammie said. "We need to get going."

         The next Sunday my sister called to wish me a happy birthday.
         "I'm glad to be alive," I said. "I got mixed up with a swan."
         "You don't look like one," she said, puzzled.
         "Not that kind of mixed up. Battered," I said.
         "Like battered chicken?" Something was wrong. Maybe she had taken a break from cooking to call me.
         "Sarah," I said, "A swan raped me in Wallingdale Park two weeks and two days ago."
         Her silence told me she was thinking that one over.
         "You were raped?"
         "Yes," I said.
         "It must have been Charlie," she decided long distance. "Came clear up to Portland."
         "It wasn't Charlie," I said, "I'm not that loyal. It was a swan. I went swimming in the pond and he jumped me. He stuck his pecker in and nearly squeezed me to death."
         "Let me get this straight," said my sister. "It poked you while you were swimming?"
         "I swear it," I said. "He broke three of my ribs."
         "It hurt you?"
         "He," I said.
         "You always were a liar," said Sarah.

         I pulled out my tape recorder from the drawer under the stereo. "On Thursday evening, May 25th, with the temperature still in the nineties, I went for a walk to see the swan in Wallingdale Park. At the pond I stopped by a No Swimming sign to take off my clothes. I was too hot to care about leaving my swimsuit at home."
         "The swan glided close to me, showing off his turns. Then he started spiraling, faster and faster, toward the center of the pond. I waded in and started swimming along the edge of the deep water. Then I turned on my back to look at the moon. Next thing I knew, a helicopter fell on top of me, that's what I thought. It was the swan jumping me, turning me, pinning me . . ."
         I stopped talking to collect myself. The machine was on pause when I heard the phone. It was Jonno, inviting me for Thanksgiving with him and Tanya.
         "I'll be there," I said, "but I can't talk now."
         "Later," he said.

         The smells of roasting bird surrounded me as soon as I opened the door.
         "Bird! Yams!" I said, "Gravy!" They must have thought I was mad.
         "I'm so glad to be here," I said. Jonno came toward me. "Don't squeeze hard," I said, thinking of my ribs.
         He didn't ask questions, just kissed me on both cheeks and stood back smiling.
         "It happened in Wallingdale," I said. "I shouldn't go there by myself."
         "That's a shame, having to worry," Tanya said, coming up behind him.
         We all stood quietly.
         I was inhaling. "I smell bird," I said to Tanya.
         "It's ready," she said and went to fetch it.
         The table was covered with a red cloth. They had set out beeswax tapers and a box of matches from Omega. The wine glasses were shining.
         Underneath my skin, I went berserk when Tanya came in with the turkey. The crispy bird was exactly swan size. From the corner of my eye, I saw the two pronged fork and the sharp blade beside it on the plank.
         "Jonno," I said, "I have to carve this year."
         Jonno, who is not macho, brought it around.
         I carved that turkey-swan like a mad butcher. Every stroke came down hard, right at the joint. One thigh, the other thigh, one wing, then the other. Then I whacked the big pieces apart.
         "Great performance, Leila," Tanya said. "But what is going on?"
         I told them. Just talking about that time, I felt hungrier.
         I helped myself to both kinds of cranberry sauce and a huge helping of yams. Lots of dark meat and light. Plenty of mushroom stuffing.
         Later we sat over brandy, except for Jonno who spread his length along the sofa. I thought he was dozing until he began laughing so hard he almost rolled to the floor.
         "Violence-de-cygnet for dinner," he gasped, "violence-de-cygnet.".
         "With mushrooms and water chestnuts," added Tanya. "The bird got more than he deserved."
         "No worries," I said. "I punched his eye out and they euthanized him.
         Marian told me." Marian works at the park.
         "I feel a lot better," I said. "Can I take the bones home?"

         On Saturday, I went to Glass Class with the bone bag in my hand.
         I asked Laurian about the firing when we stopped for break.. "I want to put these in the kiln. The bookends will keep."
         Laurian opened the bag.
         "Leila," she said. "Glass Class is serious."
         "Call it Ashen Soul of Swan," I suggested. "You're not the only one who's serious."
         Laurian started laughing.
         "I think I'll lighten up," she said.