Bedtime Fiction Sad

I counted walnuts in my head, the shriveled tan hearts dripping into a bowl, somewhere hidden behind a rock. 

This was only a fantasy now. Nothing grew south of the forest, and nobody left out nuts in the desert. Each piece of food was treasured by all creatures, and I was a small and unimportant one. We continued toward the sun, which blinded me enough to mask the change of color from evergreen to dusty brown on the surface below. The people moved around like slow crickets, headed the same way as us. They pointed in the air, so we did a few circles and formed the shape of a dolphin. I imagined each of them smiling. 

I saw a girl smile once when I was as young as she. I landed on a bench beside her while she munched on some kind of mashed up peanuts. My feathers quivered at the scent. I inched closer, her tiny, buttery limbs and translucent hair inviting me in. She called out to me


Her mother swung her autumn hair off her neck and gave the girls belly an approving squeeze. Her baby blue shorts rode up near her diaper. She kicked her scabbed shins up off the bench. 

I thought about my mother, who came back to me at the close of the sun each night. She asked me what I did during the day, and I told her about the girl and her mother in the park. 

She reminded me that people are dangerous, and the woman in the park was trying to protect her child from me. She said they would hurt birds if they could only catch us. 

I couldn’t imagine the girl hurting anything. She trembled with laughter and cried before bed. I watched through her window, where a small lamp, shaped like a mermaid, let off a gold light and blocked most of my view. Her mother nested different size pillows around her head while she dug her nails into a crocheted blanket with rows of pink fish. They both read words from a red and orange story book, as if the mother was also struggling with her R’s.

I visited the window more often, searching for something although I didn’t know what. I had to scoot away from the ledge when she climbed out one night, a boy below with his arms out, ready to break her fall. They tucked themselves away behind a tree to hold hands and kiss. 

He laughed out loud and she shoved her baggg sleeve into his mouth.

“You’ll wake up my mother!” 

This confused me; I saw her mother watching the two children from her bedroom window, where she normally slept with the TV turned on. Now she stood still, focused like a hawk on the back of the girls head. Her earrings twinkled in harmony with the night.

Still, they were well disguised in the dark so I hopped closer. I was invisible against the Earth. For a moment, I craved the substance of those people, all the space they took up, like something more profound occurred within their bodies. They spread out their arms like angels, and didn’t look over their shoulder all the time. They seemed safe, free to wonder about things like their clothing or the decorations on their walls. 

My mother whispered to me while I slept that night. Her course feathers smelled like Juniper berries. She told me we would return north the next morning. We’d leave at sunrise, with just a few minutes to find where the others landed. The rusty markings below her eyes shined like teardrops. She checked around us every couple seconds, rotating her beak back and forth. 

I wanted to see the girl again before I left. After my mother tucked her head into her wing, I hopped down from our branch quietly and took off toward the house. 

The girl rested her head against her mother’s frail hand. Her grey and brown braid laid long down her back. A curtain blurred the rest of the room, except for a vase of sunflowers on the nightstand. Her mother mumbled something I couldn’t understand and she giggled. 

Then her mother sat up, her hoarse cough audible from the distant tree I watched from. She held the girls shoulders as she stabilized her walk into the bathroom. I noticed the girls hips were almost as wide now. Humans grew into so many interesting shapes. 

I watched through the window long enough for the sun to peak over the roof. I jolted back and flew toward our nest. I arrived, cooing for my mother. She wasn’t in the nest or any of the surrounding trees. 

I hopped from branch to branch, chirping for the other birds. The trees shook in the still silence, their bareness leaving me exposed to the sky above. 

I returned to the house, wondering if I could make it north on my own. I didn’t know the way, and if I went in the wrong direction I might risk being washed away by unfamiliar winds. 

After several hours I pressed my body against the trunk and rested my eyes. The middle day shined hard and long. The smell of walnuts captured me, so I started to count each nut in my head, imagining the soft center between my beak. I followed the smell on the off chance it wasn’t just a weary dream. 

The scent took me back to the house. I peaked into the window, where room was empty and the furniture removed. The lamp and curtaime were gone from my view, and I clearly made out fresh repainted walls and a new matte carpet. I hopped around to the front of the house, where a woman stood on a chair near the railing. She rubbed water off her face. 

Her black clothing stuck to her back. She lifted a tiny house, the same shape as her own, with a rope attached to the roof. she hung it near the front door. A man, also dressed in black, handed her a bag of walnuts. 

“Your mom loved birds.” 

She filled the house with nuts, through a hole cut out above the painted red door. She wiped the water from her face and her nose with the white towel she used to dust off little house.  

I chirped to her. 

“Oh, look!” 

Both the people froze, and stared at me. I fluttered back. 

“John, you’re scaring her. Get inside.” 

They went into the house, their house, and slowly closed the door. I waited a moment, but the smell of nuts was overwhelming, and I hadn’t eaten since the last time my mother brought back her juniper berries. I landed on the railing, then spread my wings and elevated up to the bird feeder.

The taste of the walnuts was real, and inflated my heart. The women behind the glass dug her head into the mans chest. He whispered into her ear, pointing at me and waving. 

October 16, 2020 15:41

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