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Fiction Inspirational Contemporary

She hated birds. All birds. It wasn’t so much the birds themselves, or the way they preened, or even the sounds they make. It’s the wings she can’t stand, how they flutter and sputter with frantic spasms of insanity. It made no sense how the feathered creatures could sit quietly and patiently one minute then startle with frenetic motion the next. The agitated activity made her heart feel like it was going to explode from the fear and loathing. It hadn’t always been this way. At one time she had enjoyed the birdsong of the mornings, the cooing doves, or the evening trills. But that enjoyment was no more.

She didn’t really like them dead either, to be honest. Butchered and cooked wasn’t any better. A dinner of fried chicken didn’t appeal to her at all. Roast turkey over the holidays didn’t entice her because the bird on the platter still looked like what it was—just a big dead bird. She could picture it alive and flapping those huge wings even if it could not fly. It was still a bird after all. She spent many holidays with potatoes, green bean casserole, and an olive or two on her plate. Easter was not a celebratory occasion for dyeing eggs. They reminded her of her avian enemies, and she was disgusted by them. Hard boiled eggs were malformed, slimy, white super balls with chalky, yellow insides. Yuck.

One spring evening, she was heading down the highway after work. She was late collecting the boy from baseball practice, but it could not be helped. She had a business to run and clients that needed her time and attention. She hadn’t closed the salon until after six and she was flying down the road.

The desert palette presented a dusky pink mixed artfully with deep blue, yellow, and bronze on the expansive canvass of sky. The breeze kept the air moving and it was warm enough to have the windows down and the music on. She savored the beautiful evening and forgot about being late.

Waiting at an intersection, she hit the gas when the light changed to green and when she accelerated, something hit the side of the driver’s door. If fact, something careened off the side of her face and whatever it was, it bounced off her shoulder and was now in her backseat.

She could hear flapping that sounded like a tomcat stuck in a burlap bag except it wasn’t screeching and clawing. It was worse than that. Much worse. It was flustered and carried on like a banshee. She was sure it was a stinking bird. Behind her. In the car. With her.

Turning around to see where it landed wasn’t possible because she was driving in traffic. She knew that any second, it was going to jump on top of her head and the very thought caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand on end and made her skin crawl. She didn’t want to touch the creepy thing. Thinking about it made her dizzy and she felt her chest constrict—but she wanted it out of her car.

Reluctantly she reached around with her right arm to see if she could smack it out the passenger side window but had no luck. Traffic was heavy and the flow didn’t allow for a slow down in the left lane. Her heart was thumping wildly. She had to do something. Fast. Getting a grip, she pulled over into the right lane.

There was a grocery store a couple of blocks ahead on the right. She pulled into the parking lot without signaling, pissing off the guy behind her. He hit the horn. She flipped him off.

Pulling into a parking spot to the side of the store, she threw the transmission into park and jumped out. She opened both back doors and searched without getting too close. She could not see a thing and the backseat of the car was now eerily quiet. But the wild thing was there. She knew it.

This was ridiculous. She reached in and turned the engine off. She needed something to use as a prod—a stick, a palm frond, anything, but there was nothing remotely useful in the empty parking lot.  No, I had to stop in the only clean lot in town, she swore to herself, shaking her head. What now? she wondered.  

A man was approaching as he stepped from the exit of the grocery store. He carried a bag of what appeared to be purchases. She flagged him down. He was walking in her direction anyway, but oddly when he heard her call out, he became cautious and slowed his gait instead of walking faster.  

“Hey, can you help me?” she called in obvious panic. “There’s a bird in my car!”

The man slowly ambled over, unsure of what to make of her panicked state of emergency. He frowned, appeared to wonder if he had heard her correctly. “There’s a what?” he asked with a skeptical tone, his brow twisted into a frown.

“A bird. It flew into my car. It freaked me out! I thought I was going to pass out.”

“A bird? How’d it get in your car?”

“It flew in the window when I was at the light.” She repeated, pointing down the street.

“How you gonna pass out from a bird? It ain’t gonna hurt you.”

“They sound so manic all the time, like they’re mad—and it hit me in the face!”

The man looked at her like she was a nut and she probably sounded like one. “No,” he said shaking his head. “It’s just lost. Funny time of evening for them,” he said looking up at the dusky sky. “It’s navigation musta failed it. It’s more scared of you than you are of it.”

She sincerely doubted the truth of that assessment, but she wasn’t going to argue. Besides, she needed the guy’s help. “Can you get it out of my car? Please?”

He sighed and looked toward her car. He saw the open back doors and looked back at her. “Backseat?” he asked.

She nodded, relieved she might not have to abandon the car and call an Uber. She had seriously considered doing that very thing before she had noticed the guy coming from the store.

The man walked over to the car. He bent over into the backseat, crouched down with his knees on the pavement to look on the floor behind the front seat. He stayed in that position long enough that she wondered what the hell was happening. Then she saw him back out of the car carefully holding something gently in both hands.

“I think it’s a phoebe,” he said of the bird in his hands.

“Is it dead?” she asked.

 “No, just disoriented. It is starting to calm down.” She watched as the man stroked the bird’s feathers with one finger. He puckered his lips and placed his mouth so close to the bird that she couldn’t tell if he kissed it, blew tiny puffs of air at it, or spoke softly to the bird. Slowly, the small bird started to rouse, becoming more active, but the bird seemed content to sit on the man’s palm. It looked to her as if the bird took comfort from the stroke of the man’s finger and the warmth of his breath.

“See?” he said to her. “It’s coming around nicely. Do you want to say hello?” She stepped closer and touched the bird gingerly just behind its head. It didn’t seem to mind her touch. The feathers were very soft. She felt life energy emanate from the tiny thing and she was hit with surprise and excitement, but after a moment she backed away.

A cinder block wall surrounded the perimeter of the parking lot. The man placed the bird on its little feet atop the wall. He was careful, ensuring that it was on its feet and balanced before he took his hands away from the bird as it perched there. The bird walked around, taking a few steps on its stick-like feet.

The phoebe faced them. It stood there for at least a solid minute as it looked at the pair with curiosity or with gratitude or maybe it was with amusement—who could tell? Then they watched it fly off.

“Bye, bird,” said the man.” He turned to her and with a slight, forward nod said, “You have a nice evening too now.”

“Thank you, she said. “I appreciated the help.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a twenty. “Let me pay you for your time.”

The man frowned, looked at the bill in her hand. “Oh, no. Not necessary,” he said as he put his hands out between himself and the offered money. “Good night, Ma’am.” He walked away with his bag of purchased items. She watched him walk away.

“Thank you,” she called after him one last time. He waved with one hand without turning around, merely offering a side glance in her direction.

The bird hadn’t died. She had watched it fly away. She thought of how she had stroked the bird’s feathers while it sat on the man’s hand and the slight vibration of life she had felt under her finger. She recalled how the man had placed his mouth close to the small being as a kinship was shared between them. She had witnessed something special.

She was no longer worried about being late. Bigger things, cosmic things were happening. She climbed into the car and started the engine. She pulled slowly into traffic and headed to the ballpark.

April 28, 2022 15:10

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4 comments

Mike Panasitti
16:39 May 05, 2022

Susanne, a likeable read. Believable dialogue. Perhaps having named the character could have prevented the over-usage of the pronoun"she." I initially agreed with Michal; it's very unlikely a bird would have flown into a car. But the introduction describing the protagonist's irrational loathing of birds made me curious to read past the middle of the story. I appreciated the way you resolved the MC's phoebe-phobia.

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Susanne Perry
18:07 May 05, 2022

Thanks! The story is based on an actual incident embellished with gobs of imagination.

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Michał Przywara
22:25 May 04, 2022

I really liked the exchange between the protagonist and the man. As soon as I saw "There’s a bird in my car!" I thought, "that sounds ridiculous." So did the man, it seems. You got her sense of panic across well, as well as showing how it gradually changed and calmed.

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Susanne Perry
18:09 May 05, 2022

Thank you. I enjoyed writing it. It’s based on a real story. As it was originally told to me I was laughing so hard 🤣

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