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Her life's ennui was astounding, Amelia thought. Her mother's red brick house sat on a lot in a neighborhood of changing times. This neighborhood was one of the nicest in town, on a hill. This area used to be a subdivision. Built in the 50's, it was now a scramble of old and new. There were a dozen or so boring ranch houses that still remained amongst multi-million dollar modern homes. The older houses felt out of place on their own territory. They were the few surviving stragglers of a past era. The crumbling older houses would soon be replaced with shiny glass towers and new-car-scented Audis. Why does the canary protest?
Her walls were adorned with posters of Lenin and Che Guevara. These were the paragons of her childhood. One wall was covered with a partially completed mural and the others were a soothing aqua. She could tell from her guest's blank expression that he didn't know who the communists on the wall were. I can trust him, she thought. While this was a comforting thought, she was aware that no one can be trusted. His name was Anthony and they had met at school. Polar opposites, they generally got along well.
"Giggidy," Anthony said. This word had confused her at first. Apparently it was the equivalent of "cool" or "awesome." Still, the origin of such a word puzzled her.
"Do you want something to drink?" she asked.
"Umm... beer? Just kidding. I know you're a straightedge." That she was. How could she think for herself if she polluted her mind with substances? As she thought this, and Anthony walked past her into the hallway, marijuana fumes filled her nostrils.
"Are you smoking weed again? You know what I think of that," Amelia said.
"I know. It just helps me relax."
"But it's just so bad for you," her fifteen year old nostrils rose and made an unattractive pinched faced expression.
"Ok. Well, I've got to go now... so I guess I'll see you tomorrow?"
"I'm sorry. I just don't want you to get hurt," Anthony began to walk out the front door but she stopped him. She gave him a quick peck on the cheek before closing the door behind him.
Amelia gazed out the window at his retreating figure. The sun was just beginning to set behind the mountains in the east, causing the shadows of the cars on the block to be elongated. The evergreen trees to the left of the house began to sway as a bitter winter breeze picked up. Amelia walked away from the window and was heading toward the kitchen when the phone rang. It was her mother; she decided not to answer. She looked up. Cracks spread across the ceiling like veins about to burst. Someday, she thought, the house would fall down the hill.
Her grandfather had died earlier that year. It had been a slow decline, painful. She never knew her grandfather all too well. His name was Harry and he was of average height with a potbelly. Until the end, that is, when he had lost over a hundred pounds.
"It's lung cancer," Amelia's mother had said.
"How long will he live?" Amelia asked.
"We can't know for sure. Probably not very long. But he needs to know that he has our blessings." This was her mother's new thing. Religion. Well, it wasn't religion exactly. It was more just a sudden belief in God. Amelia was agnostic, never understanding why people believed in such a being. But now she was beginning to understand. Her mother was reaching out to God now that things were headed south. He was a last resort.
"Ok. I'll pray for him," Amelia lied. She never cried in front of anyone. Only late at night, when she was sure no one could hear her. She believed that strong emotion is a personal thing, and we should not dilute it by allowing others to know that we are hurting. This was another way in which Amelia differed from her mother.
In the present, Amelia had homework to do. She was scared of wasting time; all too aware that our time on planet Earth is limited and we must use it wisely. These opinions considered, why do homework? Why does the canary waste its life, singing cryptic ballads of long ago, perched on a pregnant apricot tree? Why does the companionless, lonesome sailor continue to sail the deserted seas? Why does the canary sing?
Amelia decided to go out. Although the wind was growing fierce, she decided her bicycle would be the best mode of transportation. Taking the bike lock key on her way out, she left the house, unlocked her bike, and began pedaling down the street. She forgot to wear a helmet.
The sun set over the town as Amelia biked into the distance. How does the canary sing? Why is the compact disc flat and loved? Why does the lonely woman with the picket sign stand up for her cause? Why does the canary sing?