Joseph came here every morning, but he had never seen the hawk. Other clients had told him about it, but he had never seen it for himself. He was smoking a cigarette, waiting for his weekly therapist’s appointment, when something big and brown swooped down over his head and snatched a baby squirrel off the ground. Joseph heard a loud chirping but couldn’t see what was making it. Was that the squirrel equivalent of watching your kid get hit by a car right in front of you? The frantic chirping stopped.
Now the hawk was six feet away from him, motionless on the picnic bench. Joseph could see that it was reddish brown, white, and black. Its tail was a beautiful orange-red color. It glared, head pivoting, standing on the dead squirrel.
“I’m glad I came early to get my dose,” Joseph murmured out loud. When he wasn’t working, Joseph would be the last person to arrive at the methadone clinic before the nurses closed the dosing window for the day. Today, he arrived at seven-thirty in the morning. He’d spent the last five weeks painting a house with his buddy Freddy. Winter was coming, might be his last gig till spring.
“I hate this place,” a woman standing beside him scowled. Joseph hadn’t noticed her. She was younger than Joseph. Maybe twenty-five. She had only been on the clinic a few weeks. Joseph didn’t expect her to last long. He came to a clinic in his twenties too, but he went back out after a few months. He wasn’t sick and tired of being sick and tired, as they say in the program.
“It’s not so bad,”
“It’s all bullshit,” the woman pulled out a pack of cigarettes and began packing them. “Did you see him attack that squirrel?”
“Yeah,” Joseph hadn’t taken his eyes off the hawk. It turned its head; its hook-shaped beaked pointing straight at Joseph now. I wonder what the hawk thinks of me.
“That’s sick,” the woman shook her head. “It was disgusting.”
Several other people stopped. The grassy courtyard was sullied by people walking across it to get a closer look at the hawk. More people were arriving at the clinic. How many people would the hawk allow to stand so close to him? It wouldn’t be long now till it flew away. Don’t go, Joseph thought. Make them go instead.
The hawk twisted its head around and down, inspecting the new onlookers. He crouched further down on the dead squirrel in his talons.
“I think he thinks we want some,” the woman sounded almost mocking.
“What’s he got in his claws?” An older man asked. He’d been on the clinic since before Joseph came, and Joseph was an old timer himself.
“A baby squirrel,” the woman said accusingly.
“They’re called talons,” Joseph dropped his cigarette and stamped it with his left foot. “Not claws. Talons.”
The older man sized Joseph up. Then he turned back to the woman, who had lit up another cigarette.
“Did you hear what happened to Thomas?” the older man asked. He moved a few steps closer to where the woman was standing.
“No, what?” the woman asked.
“He’s getting detoxed. I think. Detoxed. Jesus.” The man glanced at Joseph, who shrugged. Joseph didn’t really have any friends, and certainly not at the clinic. There was a time when he felt his friends and acquaintances were smart and interesting. Now so many of those friends were dead.
“What’d he do?” the woman said.
“Nothing! He was a good guy, Thomas was,” the older man said.
“I don’t know,” Joseph said. “He tried to sell me his Xanax.”
“Did he really?” the older man said, like this was the most shocking thing he’d heard. As if half the clients here aren’t trying to sell or buy Xanax or Ativan or something.
Joseph was hoping to see the hawk kill something else.
“Well, catch you later,” the older man patted the woman on the back, allowing his hand to rest on her shoulder a few seconds. Very smooth, Joseph thought. The older man waved vaguely in Joseph’s direction and left.
“He’s not actually eating it,” The woman gestured with her head at the hawk. “My boyfriend and I saw a falcon a couple months ago. One of those, whaddayacall them, pear-grin falcons. Just hanging out in the courtyard of our building, we live in the Section 8 apartment up the road there. It’s a nice place, but that day man. That was something else. Just swooped down and got a pigeon. Crazy how fast it happened.”
“That’s what they do,” Joseph said. “Peregrine falcons, they’re called. They can dive 200 miles per hour, people say.” In his younger days, Joseph wrote a song about a peregrine falcon. He hadn’t played music in years.
“Wonder how long he’ll stay,” the woman moved closer to Joseph.
“Shhhh,” Joseph didn’t think noise would scare off the hawk, but he wanted her to stop talking.
The woman scowled. Joseph didn’t react; he continued to watch the hawk, focusing on its plumage: All the colors and the sheer size of it. The hawk spread out the full five feet expanse of its wings and held his beak up higher. It stayed spread out for few a few seconds, and then swooped off, flying upward into the nearest tree. The baby squirrel dangled in its talons.
Joseph followed him with his eyes. After a few seconds, the hawk swooped out of that tree and out of sight.
Joseph began walking inside. He was a little late for his therapy appointment. He waved at the woman, but he didn’t think she was paying any attention. I guess this is what counts for being stable, Joseph thought. Clean urines, working when I can, paying my own rent.
He was hungry. His stomach growled. He was thinking he’d rather just go and get some breakfast, but he had this appointment. Maybe later.
About the Author
My name is Eve Lyons. I am a poet and fiction writer living in the Boston area. My work has appeared in Lilith, Hip Mama, Mutha Magazine, Word Riot, Dead Mule of Southern Literature, Prachya Review, as well as other magazines and several anthologies. My first book of poetry is due out in May of 2020 by WordTech Communications.