No. 2. The Monitor Bird

   They took their coffee and moved into the library. 
"Well now, tell me," asked Malcolm, as they settled into two black leather wing chairs, “to which are you inclined?  A dalliance with the present--served up at any cost, in all its unalterable specificity?"  He glanced for a moment at three sculpted palm trees resting on a nearby shelf.
     "Or would you rather meander through the inchoate past, picking at what is remembered like someone picking lint from a sweater?"
     Oscar laughed.  “Is that the only choice I'm to be offered?" he replied, taking a sip of his coffee. 

     "Well,” answered Malcolm, “it's pretty hard to welcome anyone to the future.  The gates are always wide open anyhow--to all comers.  The future, you must realize, is disconcertingly democratic."
     Oscar also took a desultory look at the miniature palm trees--out of politeness--and then, in his imagination, which traded only in future-time, unfurled them like flags.  Now the trees arced in an inexplicable wind.  A black bird swept by.
     "The past is just anaemia to me, “he told his host absently, following the trajectory of the shadowy bird.  "And the present withers as you reach out to touch it." 
     Malcolm was now gazing raptly at the far wall.  "What is it?" Oscar asked him. 

"Nothing," Malcolm replied evenly.  "I just saw your black bird for a moment."