When The Kestrel moved into the triple-decker across the street, his broken life-sized wings were a moth-eaten attraction to both housewives and the unemployed of Myrtle Street. Borne aloft by burgeoning though aged muscles, the wings were feathered and plastic, ratty but somehow still imposing.
Christian, a small blond boy whose angular features were almost those of a comic book hero, struggled to peer over the porch railings next door as he watched the Kestrel carrying boxes, shelving units, several guitar-shaped cases and handfuls of mismatched kitchen utensils from the rental truck into the house.
In a front yard across the street a woman hung limp laundry on a plastic washing line, catching glimpses of the vigilante between mismatched socks. Christian would realise only much later, of course, the impact of the Kestrel’s arrival on his prepubescent mind.
Black Star Comics published the first of the Kestrel’s adventures in The Astounding Tales, featuring the permanently burned and therefore earthbound superhero investigating various and nefarious crimes committed by his nemesis, the Seraph, when I was eleven years old. Moth-eaten issues of The Astounding were, I knew, buried and decomposing in the loft of my parents’ house in Newton. Between the pages the Kestrel valiantly fought his war and usually won his battles; but it seemed that, beneath the wings, he was just another middle-aged, permatanned man.
A trail of furniture and rugs was strewn for two full days in front of the tiny house, our cul-de-sac slowly accumulating a living room on the lawn. But the following Friday, the Kestrel—as he did each weekday—hulked slowly along the Myrtle Street sidewalk until he disappeared behind his screen door. I turned back to the computer monitor, content to watch flickering cursors between glances outside the window.
A tinny shrieking came, eventually, drifting through the gap between the sill and the pane, and leaning my nose close to the window I saw Christian gesticulating toward the Kestrel’s apartment and calling to an invisible parent inside. At the third storey balcony across the street a tear of movement like a mini-tornado of feather signalled the donning of wings, the Kestrel pulling onto his shoulders the vast off-white shapes which had made him famous.
With the tattered wings on his back, the Kestrel was forced into a strange sideways walk across the deck, the slats audibly creaking even behind my office window. His crab walk ended and he leaned on the railing before pushing off, a great whoosh accompanying a movement of feathers and plastic. Airborne now, he crunched his legs up over the railing and with slow but graceful beats of his wings he forced the air downward and rose in the air, hovering for a moment in front of his apartment’s bay window before floating to the ground.
Over the next half hour the Kestrel beat a lateral force against the crumbling sidewalk until he could bear aloft kitchen chairs, bathroom scales, a hole-ridden armchair and, finally, a boxful of papers and books dampened from the morning dew. Each time I marvelled at his manoeuvring through a tiny balcony doorway with just the hint of rustling and pressure against his feathers and against the wood and upholstery and cardboard.
The evening fell, silhouetting the Kestrel against the last drops of sunlight, his wings a heart-shaped outline on the deck, the glowing embers of a cigarette moving in front of him until they dropped to the grass below. [ends]