Cathy Ulrich

The Quiet of Giraffes

In the paper the next morning, you read an article about a herd of giraffes they found in Central Africa that could speak.

Your wife is at the sink, washing dishes from last night’s party, dries her hands on her apron front.

That can’t be right, she says. Giraffes can’t speak.

You rustle the paper, point at the article.

I mean, she says, they don’t have vocal cords.

She says: I read that somewhere. It’s a fact.

There is a bruise on the back of your wife’s elbow where she can’t see, from last night. Jim from three house down, following her into the kitchen for another glass of wine and everyone running in after them when they heard the crash, your wife backed up against the counter, he fell, he just fell, wine spilled on the floor sticky beneath Jim from three houses down’s head.

And everyone saying Jim, hey, Jim, you okay? and thinking what a shame it was his wife left and took the kids, down to Florida, they were saying, left him in that big house all alone, such a good guy, such a great guy, Jim from three houses down, and he sat himself up, rubbed his head, I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.

You wouldn’t let him leave till he could say how many fingers you were holding up and what year it was and his favorite joke, I was talking to the duck, and your wife smiling at the door beside you in her apron, and she fell asleep leaned up against you on the couch, watching the headlights of cars as they pulled out of your driveway, her left hand up around her throat, the soft sighs she exhaled, and she didn’t move till morning, said, oh, you should have woken me.

Jim from three houses down will be found, finally, Wednesday afternoon, five days after your party, face down in his back yard, subdural hematoma, face gone purple from pooling of blood, no open casket for Jim, no trips to Florida to visit the kids, but your wife is asking you now well does it at least tell you what the giraffes said, and you read the article again and again to see, but no, it never does.

Cathy Ulrich might have gotten a book of facts for Christmas, which might have included something about giraffes not having vocal cords. Her work has been published in various journals, including Last Exit, Sun Dog Lit and Heavy Feather Review.

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