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.