Flash Fiction June 14, 2020
Pinawa Public Library
June 14, 2020
Attention, bird lovers! The Pinawa Public Library regularly receives the BirdWatching magazine, which is now temporarily available in digital format. If you would like to receive digital issues of BirdWatching, please email us and we will forward our issues onto you!
We continue our bird theme in a story. This week’s story is about a young woman who is offered a wish by freeing a bird.
by Jon Andersen
She struggled through the sand. Her legs felt heavy and, for every step, it seemed she had to pull her leg out of a sandy hole. She pulled and then placed her foot into the sinking sand. Over and over. She tried to make it closer to where the water was—it seemed harder and flatter there.
Finally, near the water line, it was easier, and she walked northward, glancing at the sunset setting behind the dusty horizon. The sun was not going down with a blast of colour but slowly fading in grey orange dust.
A tall, skinny boy approached carrying a large wooden box by a handle. The box was a wooden frame covered in wire screening. There was sharp and active movement inside the box and flashes of bright orange. It was not until the boy came closer that she realized that the box was completely full of small finch like birds—orange billed quelea—all very much alive.
“Wish Birds! Wish Birds! Free a bird and make a wish!” he sang.
“How much?” the woman asked.
“One bird, one hundred,” he said, “or special Valentine’s Day price: five birds, five hundred.”
“Quite the deal,” she said.
“Isn’t it?” he said. “Just for you.”
She thought for a second and then opened her small brown purse. She knew what was inside, but she studied it anyway. Next to the coins was an old folded up 500-franc note. She thought: this is a good investment. Still, she hesitated.
“Great way to get rid of your sins,” the boy said.
“Okay,” she said, handing the boy the old bill. “But only the luckiest birds, not the used ones.”
The boy put his hand through a small opening in the mesh, felt around, and pulled out a bird. He handed it to her.
She took the small bird in her right hand. Almost unconsciously, she felt her belly with her left hand.
“Don’t say it out loud,” the boy said.
She said to herself: I wish that the baby is healthy and happy and turns out to be someone good, famous, and powerful. She released the bird, and it bolted towards the east.
The boy gave her the second bird. She thought for a moment. She knew that negative wishes never came true. So she said to herself: I wish that my baby and I find someone to love us and treat us well. She released the bird, and it flew off towards the east.
The boy gave her the third bird. It was smaller than the others. Its beak was less orange than the others. Before letting it go, she thought: With this bird and this wish, I hope that my mother can accept what I have done and take me in. She let the bird go, and it flew a few yards off, landing uncomfortably in the sand.
The boy said, “Don’t worry. Just resting.” After a moment, it also flew off.
He reached back into the box and pulled out another bird. As he handed it to her, she failed to grasp it fully, and it struggled free and flew off before she could formulate a wish. She looked at the boy and thought about asking for another bird, but she remained silent.
The boy handed her the last bird. It was missing some feathers from its left wing. It bit down hard on her forefinger, surprising her. The other birds had not bitten her. She looked at the bird in her hand. She said to herself: Bird, your wish is to be free, that is the most important thing for you. What will you wish for me in return? She released the bird and, for a second, it continued to bite her finger until it realized it was free. It lifted off and started its jerky flight off towards the west. She watched it until she lost it in the setting sun.