Carl cocked his head to the side and gazed upon his latest creation not as an artist would, but as a doctor might while working on a patient in surgery. His hands had previously guided the pickets through the routing machine, the aged pine surrendering easily to the cut of the bit, and had afterwards hinged them together with the kiss-chuck! punch of a pneumatic nail gun. Now the perfect hexagon stood before him, a dutiful student waiting for its master to lay the perfect foundation, and then give it meaning and purpose. Applying a bead of glue to the ends of the frame, Carl positioned the wood upon an even wider hexagon base, shooting in a few nails to hold everything until the glue set. He took a ruler and double-checked the measurements. Six equal ledges brought a smile to his face.
His earliest attempts had failed miserably compared to these latest creations. But then, just like one couldn’t expect to make the perfect omelet without breaking a few eggs, or so the saying went, Carl knew that crafting the perfect birdhouse took time, energy, and determination to reach beyond the imperfections of this world.
All things considered, the roof turned out to be more difficult than the rest. Cut into six equally shaped triangles, each then routed on all sides, the wedges were glued and nailed together to form a steeple. When laid upon the top of the frame, everything formed a nice fit. Over the wood, he glued metal sheets—a perfectly balanced contrast, come to think of it—and instead of a cross, he used a fleur de lis at the peak. Not everyone liked crosses, he discovered. In fact, some shoppers had actually accused him of trying to impose his will upon everyone else. His individual will had nothing to do with anything. It was more a matter of one idea, one goal and purpose: exposure.
For Carl, being human came with a certain level of iniquities. Along with the imperfections of the flesh, disease and dependency, within each person there was also free will, an insipid seed of destruction where everyone believed they held rights, above everyone else it seemed, and they usually fought and died to prove their point. What good was free will then? Carl wondered. Wouldn’t it be better to have one will instead? He held no complaints about being human, though. He could have easily been something further down the food chain—a cow, a goat, or perhaps a pig—some creature whose sole existence amounted to nothing more than to eat grass, to be used like a whore, and then to be eaten. But that was the way with chance, wasn’t it? Once born and given wings to fly, with infinite possibilities to target, one could never know the outcome of fate until it was too late. By then, there would be no turning back.
The house constructed, Carl applied a base coat of paint. The dry wood sucked it in like a starving child seated in front of a bowl of ice cream. Setting the project aside, he turned his attention now toward another house—the paint already dried, the finish work also completed. To the bottom of this, he placed a date. A buyer once asked about his scribbles. He smiled and told her it was the expiration date, after which the house would spoil and be unavailable for sale. She laughed. He laughed with her.
Carl reached down and kneaded a few lumps in his belly, finding one that felt just right. Perfect, in fact. He stiffened his index finger like a dagger, and then knifed it into the flesh, twisting it, hooking the end, and pulling out the mass of tissue underneath. Looking at it, he watched the lump twitch and wiggle, the larvae inside feeling the change in temperature. After a few seconds, the sac turned brown and thickened in response to the air around it; before it dried too much, he pushed it through the small porthole in the birdhouse, the mucus membrane easily adhering like glue to the dry wood inside.
In six weeks, the larvae would finally hatch. From there, it would crawl out, spread its wings in the dark of night, and fly off in search of its new host. Hopefully it would find another human, leaving only a small welt as it bored into skin. A spider bite, some would think, nothing more. From these creations, a few would fall short. Those unfortunate seeds would find their way into a household pet—a dog or a cat, which would then get sick and die. Or they might find a baby instead that would then turn still in its sleep. The smaller hosts never survived. But that was the risk with chance, wasn’t it? Not everything could reach for perfection.
Today’s work finished, he boxed up the product and loaded it into the back of the Suburban along with the others. Tomorrow, the flea market would open, as it always did, and Carl expected to sell at least five units, maybe six.
Humans loved birdhouses.