King of the World
To “Beautiful Losers”
by Leonard Cohen
Who are you, hawk? You can’t be the protagonist of this story because it’s told from my point of view. Are you a metaphor of death with your sharp talons and beak, and the swift, black shadow? Do I know you? Do you know me? The former is questionable, the latter is unlikely. I don’t know shit, and no one knows me, for their own good.
I stand on the very edge of the precipice, holding my brand-new Samsung galaxy s7 away from my face. The red-tailed hawk, aka chicken hawk is gliding behind and slightly below. His scientific name is buteo jamaicensis. “Hawk” is a corrupted Middle English word “hauk,” but for some people “corruption” is “evolution of the language.”
I’m not one of them; I’m a purist. I loved someone, but no more, and that’s why I’m here. For too long have I listened to the silence robber walking on the squeaky legs, his nails screeching on hard plastic.
I want the hauk to fit in the frame, but the bird has other ideas. He glides away. Maybe he is shy. Maybe he thinks he’s photobombing me. Maybe he is looking for a mate. I was looking for a mate once. Humans call it love. This word comes from the Old English ‘lufu’, of Germanic origin, and is related to Latin ‘libido,’ desire. Those Latin people were quite amorous.
The sun is a large pizza in the sky. A shiny pizza with everything except for chicken wings, as it were. The word “pizza” is Italian for”pie.” They say that it originated in a Langobardic word “bizzo,” meaning “bite.” Every word in the world is a corruption of another word.
When I said I know shit, I lied to you. I know it all. I’m a polymath. I’m the king of the world. I wear a crown of 14-carat gold and faux rubies. My robe is all sables except for the lining. It’s made in Indonesia. I rule. Bite me.
I extend my selfie stick. I hate this word, by the way, and I don’t mean the stick. “Selfie” is too egotistic. It implies that the world revolves around me. It’s true, but why rub it in the people’s faces?
The stick is not long enough. The damn buteo jamaicensis still doesn’t fit. I step back. I finally fall. I finally fly. Except that I don’t have wings, not even chicken wings, and I fly strictly down. It’s funny that the process of moving in or passing through the air has the same name as the insect that will eat me soon. I wink at the pizza. It winks back. It might think it’s funny.
The world revolves around me. My crown tumbles. My robe catches the wind but lets it go. The hawk screams. He’s such a baby. No dignity whatsoever. I pity him. I will meet my love soon. Will she remember me? My desire, my libido, is that she will not.
I will be quiet now. It’s long overdue.
I’m typing fiercely with both thumbs. I need to finish this story before the silence robber arrives. I hate him. He’s such a loser.
Mark Budman was born in the former Soviet Union. His writing appeared in Five Points, PEN, American Scholar, Huffington Post, World Literature Today, Daily Science Fiction, Mississippi Review, Virginia Quarterly, The London Magazine (UK), McSweeney’s, Sonora Review, Another Chicago, Sou’wester, Southeast Review, Mid-American Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Short Fiction (UK), and elsewhere. He is the publisher of the flash fiction magazine Vestal Review. His novel My Life at First Try was published by Counterpoint Press. He co-edited flash fiction anthologies from Ooligan Press and Persea Books/Norton.