Friday, 26 August 2011

Amongst the Birds

It was a broken gun, plastic trigger and gold painted bullets. I picked it up and pointed it at the sparrows in the garden. Bang! But the birds didn’t fall from the trees. I began to long for a tree house then. Like daddy had promised before he drowned in the Big C.

My mother told me I lived in my own little world. I watched the starlings bully away the sparrows from the steamed up kitchen window. She placed a bowl of chicken soup on the table and told me to eat up. The spoon felt like an icicle between my fingers. The blanket dropped from my shoulders onto the cold linoleum.

I watched the starlings and wondered if they could make a soup to take away my cold. Outside the road sweeper picked up the broken gun and tossed it into his cart. The soup was thick and made me sleepy. Mother picked up the candlewick blanket and wrapped me like a babe, carried me to bed and tucked me in tight. I felt imprisoned in comfort.

I didn’t dream that afternoon but floated amongst the birds and the trees. I was a diving finch darting between branches and telephone wires. Blackbirds huffed at my arrogance and whispered to the magpies that I was a young upstart. I chirped and laughed before waking. I was sweating in the darkness. The covers tangled around me, twisted like cherry Twizzlers. I fought against the cotton and won my freedom.

I wrapped up in my robe and crept out to the garden, crushing mother’s rose bushes beneath my bare feet. The thorns drew no blood. The birds were silent in the silhouette tree like a paper cut-out against the hunter’s moon. I thought about climbing and flying from the highest branch.

Mother ran through the kitchen doors screaming, dragging me down, my fingernails scraped the bark. In the morning my fever was gone. A gift at the end of my bed, unwrapped but such a beautiful sight. A brand new plastic gun with gold painted bullets. My tree house remained unbuilt.


  1. That brought up a warm fuzzy in me : ) Oh to be back in grade school with a few days off, recovering from a cold...

    Thanks Tony.

  2. Thanks Vincent. A different style for me but as you say those days off with a fever being taken care of were golden.

    If you find a way back let me know ;)

  3. The child's imagination, transforming him into a finch, was my favorite part. I also like the idea of being "imprisoned in comfort," nice phrase. Thanks for sharing this piece.

  4. cute story! Liked how he imagined he was a finch (liked how he knew the different types of birds lol)

  5. Nice capture of the fragmented thought, and vivid imagination of a feverish child.

  6. Liminal Fiction thanks for the comments. the phrase imprisoned in comfort just came to me as I was struggling to think of a way to describe that feeling of utter caring we had as children when we fell ill.

    Sonia, yeah I was wondering about whether he'd know all the bird names and considered putting in a section about him bird watching. Then I realised it didn't matter because we often feel like we have hidden knowledge in fever dreams. Also I wanted the line of reality and dream state to be blurred.

    Steve cheers. That was my intention, to make it feel confusing and grounded at the same time, not an easy task but hopefully I did enough to make it work.


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