Bird of passage

31. Mai 2015 at 23:22 (Posts in English) (, , , , , , , , )

This is the first part of a story I wrote for the last Write Now meeting, „An Evening of Critiquing“.  I got lots of constructive feedback for the first draft of my story, so I decided to split it up and work on each part in turn. You can read the second part here: Dog days and here is the third and final part: Flight.


The bird landed softly on the window sill. It tucked its brownish-blue wings away neatly and scuttled around for a bit until it found the perfect place to enjoy the last orange rays of the setting sun. The dry bushes alongside the garden fence cast oddly shaped shadows on the overgrown lawn. When somebody vigorously pushed open the front door of the house with the sagging roof, the bird hurriedly flew away to find refuge in a tall tree.

The person slammed the door shut and stomped off into the evening without ever looking back. Two little faces squeezed themselves against the window, just in time to see their mummy cross the street and vanish in the suburbs of the small city in the north of England. Sometimes, it was hard being a good mother and wife and carer and worker and feeder… The bird knew that, too.

The kids had become very talented at pretending that everything was normal. Their father had locked himself up in the basement, clanging around with the contents of his well-equipped toolbox, letting off steam on defenceless pieces of metal. The little ones had learned not to disturb him at these times. They went to play in the garden. They played catch and rolled around in the dewy grass with the black family dog until they were feeling cold. The wind started to get stronger by the minute, the clouds were hanging deep, filled with a week’s worth of rain.

When they went back in, their daddy still wasn’t finished with throwing a tantrum in the makeshift workshop. So they prepared their dinner themselves – sandwiches, as usual, filled with ham and Swiss cheese and pickled onions. The storm made the window panes rattle. They watched TV until the younger one fell asleep. The older one poked his sibling awake, so they could go upstairs together, brush their teeth and go to bed. They would be able to sleep for a while, before their mummy would come home drunk and the screaming and shouting and throwing of things would start. He would hold his sister tight until it was over and whisper comforting words into her ear until her breathing slowed and she could drift back into a happier world of dreams.

When his sister was sound asleep, he scrambled out of the bed again and opened the door of their room a tiny crack. The black dog followed his lead and tried to wedge its muzzle into the gap to somersault onto the landing and down the stairs. The boy pulled the whimpering animal back, gripping it by the collar. He shushed the dog and it sat down and hid its snout between its front paws with mournful eyes.

The boy held onto the door while listening in on his parents’ row.
“I should never have stayed here with you!”, his mum was shouting. “I can’t stand living in this shithole of a town any longer!” Something fell down and broke, kissing the marble kitchen tiles much too forcefully.
The dog winced. The boy stroked its head distractedly. Now his father raised his voice to its peak for the counter-attack. A bolt of lightning lit up the room briefly, closely followed by a clap of thunder.
“Well, you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant, then! The life you’d like to lead isn’t fit for a family!”, he cried. And added, “It isn’t fit for anybody but you, to be honest!” as an afterthought.
“Yeah, really?!”, she screamed back at him. “You don’t contribute anything financially, and you tell me I’m being selfish?! Well fuck you, then!”
Things went cascading down the kitchen counter, ricocheting off the walls and the dog chimed in, howling loudly. The boy had to shut the door and silence the dog again, so his sister wouldn’t wake up.

When they got up the next morning, their mother was gone and their father was mopping up the floor. The kids shared their cereals in the last bowl available and headed off for school. On their way out, the boy noticed that the bird’s nest had dropped from the birch tree during the storm. One egg had cracked open, the other one appeared to be okay. The bird was nowhere to be seen.

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