Black iron, black feather

She played a song for me that broke me inside, a song that tortured me; one that, wordless, told me that the woman I had spurned had married a taller, darker, handsomer man than I, and that I would never be as happy again as I was with her.

It shattered me, and I stood there, gasping, choking on unwept tears for what seemed an eternity. I thought of my abandoned love’s dark hair, her lips, her green eyes—

Behind me, someone cleared his throat, smashing through my reverie. I dug in my pocket, pulled out my grandfather’s Chinese coin, black iron with a square hole cut through its center, and dropped it into the mandolin case, on top of a freshly-plucked black crow’s feather, sheened with oil.


A year later she was playing the mandolin again. She had the feather in her hair, and, as I neared her, I saw the iron coin on a leather thong, just at the top of her demure hint of cleavage.

I squeezed my girlfriend’s hand, and whispered to the mandolin player, “You were wrong.”

She nodded, smiled, and played on.

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