The Bird – Fiction

April 19, 2009

The lifeless bird was uncovered as she was helping her closest friend Tamma, cut down the dead bushes by her back door. Tamma assumed the baby bird was dead; having fallen from a nest perched delicately on the corner of the house. The thing’s bulging black eyes were closed, and it was completely bald, clothed only in dried mud and brown ants. The nest above was silent, abandoned by the failure of the mother bird. June bent down to scoop up the body in an attempt to shelter her friend, frozen in place. The bird twitched. It wasn’t a large movement, merely a small pulsing of a wing. There was no discussion, instead silent agreement. June ran for the hose and delicately washed away the invasive ants. Tamma laid the bird in a faded yellow hand towel and gently carried it into the house. Tamma’s hands shook as she dialed the first animal hospital in the phone book. With pressure in the back of her throat, she asked if there was anything they could do for the struggling bird. The voice on the line was hesitant. “There is nothing you can do. Put it back outside and let nature take its course.” June swam through the other phone numbers, begging compassion from strangers, but the answers were all the same. Tamma stood up, clutching the wrapped bird. She carried it outside, to a patch of purple cone flowers. June watched from the window as Tamma picked up a brick and swiftly brought it down on top of the bird, crushing it into the earth. June ran to her, tears streaming down her vacant face. Tamma looked up with damaged grey eyes that had seen more pain and loss than anyone could be expected to endure. “It was just too much”, Tamma said as she slowly stood. Anne watched her for a long, quiet moment, and then looked down at her own still hands, unable to let her eyes fall upon the brick.

The Red Blanket

April 19, 2009

I don’t remember the beginning of red blanket. Time behaves differently for six year olds, so I assumed that things like red blankets, mothers and slotted spoons had always and would always exist unchanged in the world. Since then I have had a series of sordid relationships with countless other blankets, but red was my first, which carries its own weight of distinction.
Red was an unusually thin blanket. This made it ideal for building forts and wrapping up toys to carry around the house, but it was suspiciously cold for a blanket. On a Cartesian plane of bedding, with sheets being at one end, and duvets on the other, red would have fallen right in the center, directly at zero. But my mother made my bed with the red blanket on top of my rainbow bright sheets, so I naturally assumed Red was a blanket after all. Further evidence as to red’s status lay in the soft, raised ridges that ran through out. I decided that while it is possible to have a very thin blanket that is consistently cool to the touch; it would be unheard of to have a thick, textured sheet on top of one’s bed.
One night, I remember thinking what a clever six year old I was to have thought this out so meticulously and scientifically. I wanted to run into Chris, my older brother’s room and impress him with my new found conclusions. I climbed out of bed and tied red around my neck like a cape. The bare floor was cold on my naked feet. My hand was on the doorknob when I heard my parents in the hallway.
Something made me stop. For an instant, I forgot to breath. The words were wrong, out of place somehow, like they belonged in someone else’s hallway far away from mine. I left the door open ever so slightly and silently crept back to bed. My Dad was laughing, but the laugh was ugly and thick and it made my stomach hurt. I brought red all the way over my head, and wished it had been thicker so I wouldn’t have heard the yelling and the yelling and the yelling and the dull thud of something large hitting the floor.
Then it was quiet. It was quiet for a very long time. Just when I decided to go see what had fallen; I saw my mother’s silhouette in my door way. Neither one of us spoke. With a wet face, she gently scooped me out of bed. She carried me down the mud stained stairs to the front door, with Chris sleepily trailing behind. I saw my Dad sitting on the end of the couch holding his head in his hands. “Jude, wait…I’m sorry”, he said softly. I remember thinking he must have said it too quietly, because my mom kept walking as if nothing had been said at all. She didn’t hear me either, when I whispered in her ear to ask where we were going. She merely exhaled softly and tightened her grip around me as we spilled out into the moon light. We crossed the parking lot to our neighbor’s apartment. I put my head down on her shoulder and fell asleep with red still tied around my neck, flapping in the night wind.

A Children’s Story

January 31, 2009

 

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful, young girl who lived in a cottage in the forest.  This fair-haired girl spent her days in lovely white dresses, chasing butterflies through the woods and dancing with trees.   She laughed and loved and smiled all the time.  She glowed so brightly, that everyone she met wanted to be near and share in her warmth, even if only for a little while. 

Throughout her young lifetime, she had generously given tiny pieces of her heart away to everyone she had met.  Unfortunately many of these people had taken those pieces of her heart and not given her anything in return.  Some did this because they were young and greedy, while others had lost most of their hearts as well, and some never had a heart to give.  Before she new it, the fair-haired girl realized she had but one tiny sliver of her heart left.

Frightened, she decided to hide the only piece of her heart that remained within a small tree in a glen. Surely, she thought, it would be safe there and she planned to keep it hidden until she could learn to be more careful with whom she gave her love to.

Finally, the girl was safe.

Lonely,

but safe.

           Weeks passed, then months and years and everyday that little tree grew bigger and stronger and more beautiful, as it reached towards the sun.   Life passed and changed things around that tree, and after many years, the glen was almost completely demolished.  Only a few trees remained in what became a courtyard surrounded by tall office buildings. Fortunately, the one with the girl’s heart had been spared, as it was too beautiful of a tree for the workers to cut down.

At first, the girl had visited the tree daily, and dreamed of the time when she could be reunited with her heart.  But as she grew older, richer, and more successful; she rarely found time for things like butterflies and trees. Eventually, she moved out of the forest, into a three bedroom condo with laminate flooring and tilt-in windows. All grown up, the girl had become a safe, responsible and sensible, corporate accountant.  White dresses became completely impractical; instead she wore very nice tan suits and not-so-comfortable shoes.  She worked very hard in one of the tall buildings that surrounded the courtyard, and although her office window looked down on that tree, she never took the time to turn around and see it. 

Yet the girl remained safe,

empty,

but safe.

Then one magical day, a very important man on his way to a very important meeting happened to pass by the courtyard. He had passed by this tree everyday and had never really noticed it before, but on this day, he was taken by how tall and strong it stood in the sunlight.  The man was sure that the sounds of the leaves in the wind seemed to be whispering his name. He thought to him self, “This is the tree I have been looking for all of my life.”  So he hired some men to cut it down and had it turned into a desk for his very important office.

As the very important man had the tree hauled away, the girl, (now a woman), just happened to pass by.  She saw the spot where the tree had been, and stopped.  For a short moment, she was almost sad. She just didn’t remember why.

I still don’t know how to play.

January 30, 2009

My son tells me that I never play with him.  I have always dismissed this idea, because I spend all kinds of time with him.  I remind him that I picked him up from school,  ate dinner with him, helped him with his Valentine’s cards, and that we watched the Dog Whisperer together.   When he tells me I never play with him for the seventh time, I almost hear him.

He is right. I don’t think I know how to play.  When I try, I’ll ask him what we should play. When he shrugs his shoulders, I make suggestions.  I try to find the bucket of dinosaurs, or all of the bakugan that came in the special holiday collector’s tin.  I decide we need to clean up his room so we can find the snake bakugan.  I decide to re-arrange the toys in his room, creating new storage solutions that are fun and practical at the same time.  I sit back and marvel at the lovely clean room I have created.  I still don’t know how to play.

I want to learn.  He has grown six inches in four months.  How much longer will he even talk to me, much less want to play with me?  I finally break down and  ask him over dinner, “how do you learn to play?”

He looks at me like I am made of cheese.  “I don’t know Mom, you just try.”

So tonight, I tried.  I discovered that playing doesn’t require all the parts the toy came with.  Play is spontaneous.  Games don’t need names or rules. Two couch cushions, a nerf bullet and the lid to a butter cookie tin have enourmous potential.

I still don’t know how to play, but I am going to try.