HENPECK

Submitted by Warren Woods to Contest #5 in response to: Write a story about someone who finds life meaning in an unexpected place.... view prompt


The alarm went off and would have woken him had he not already been awake. He found himself fully rested by the time it rang. From where he laid he could still see the horizontal lines of street light askew on the wall next to the bed. It was hardly dusk yet and half of the world was still asleep. With his left hand he tossed the blanket aside and slid his legs to the edge of the bed as he sat upright. After a brief moment of thoughtlessness he recounted his dreams. Another recurring dream, nothing new to interpret. Windows open, he sat with his eyes closed and listened to the sound of the rain, like tiny metal beads rolling through a hollow drum.


A sparrow landed on a branch near the open window next to the bed. After a few moments, the man noticed the lone bird. He wondered how long it had sat there observing his silent contemplation. The sparrow stood at an angle with its broad side to the man and looked with its tiny head at the man, cocking its head sideways and back and forth but maintaining locked eyes with the man. The bird’s tiny eyes were glossy and black and their movement could not be seen but the man felt the eyes of the sparrow on him.


The tiny bird asked, “I’m just a sparrow, are you alarmed? Do you fear me? Or do you only feel fear for your fellow man?”


The bird paused briefly.


“Hm? And why do men fear each other? Why do you feel panic in the presence of your equals? Even those men who you know are less capable than yourself drive terror like a spike into your heart and wrap tightly like a belt around your head and neck. But why do you feel this way and do other men feel the same terror in the presence of you?”


The man could barely keep up with the bird’s inquiry and the perfunctory manner in which the bird questioned the man. The tiny bird did not allow the man to answer before moving to his next point.


“I have never understood man, in all of my humble bird life. Men are consumed with survival sentiment. In addition to the fear felt by their counterparts, men fear their own death even more so. Men are consumed with the thought of dying and selfishly with the end of their own existence. As if the life they live is a crime, punishable by inevitable death. The penalty of their permanent departure devours their foresight. Why? Why does man live this way? Hm?”


The man began to answer before being halted by the bird’s investigation.


“I don’t…” He started to say.


“And worse yet, why is man paralyzed by his own mind? A man’s ability to build and learn and love is shattered by his own lack of courage. He is limited by his inability to separate his thoughts from his ego.”


A sudden boom of thunder heralded rain so heavy it frightened the man. But the bird did not flinch, its’ eyes gazing at the man still.


“Your life is wasted on thoughts. Your mind is preoccupied with death and despair.”


There was a pause. The sparrow turned its head and delicately danced closer to the window. As the bird began to speak again, the man leaned out the window into the rain and swatted at the bird. The bird waltzed back up the branch. Arm extended, the man grabbed a hold of the Crabapple limb, slick with rain, and began to shake it. 


“Shut up you stupid goddam bird!” He yelled. His voice was muted by the raucous thunder.


Hanging halfway out of the window and looking up towards the sky, the man lost his grip and fell from the first story window into the wet grass beneath the tree. His shoulder, which hit the soft ground first, hurt, but he was not in serious pain. He laid beneath the rain, saturated and shivering, looking out at the dark grey sky. He considered the bird’s questions while he laid in the rain, mouth and eyes open. He felt the rain cascade from leaves above. He tasted the earthy drops of water and began to cease shivering. For a brief moment, he noticed that the bird was still in the tree overhead, looking down upon the man as the light from the sun began to peek through the western sky.


And at last, the bird departed the tree and left the man behind, alone. 


By Warren Woods


You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 like 0 comments