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One morning, a bird claimed my head as its egg. I tried to shoo it away, but it gripped a tuft of my hair and refused to let go. Eventually, I resigned myself to the little wren, but Monica, my wife, she never did.
Most days, the guys at work teased me about my bird. And my extended family believed I did it for attention. Even my doctor couldn’t help but roll his eyes. He pretended it wasn’t there, which was fine, as he was expressing alarm over a grey smudge found on my chest x-rays. I tapped my lips, pretending to regard the blemish with worry, but it was my ghostly lungs illuminated by the lightboard that drew my eyes.
“A pleural biopsy will tell us more,” he said.
This meant nothing to me. I only wanted to know if I was dying. But I worried if I asked directly, I’d sound foolish. When the results came back, Monica and I hugged and cried for a few days until our eyes went dry, and our faces throbbed. She grieved my body as if it were her own. Treatments galore were scheduled, and Monica became defiant.
“We’re going to beat that little fucking smudge,” she’d wail, storming the hallway of our house. She lifted my spirits and caused the khaki-colored wren atop my head to sing in a glorious flutey vibrato.
In time, the focus of our discussions changed. Monica would steer us into topics related to passwords, bank accounts, and insurance policies. The bird hated this sort of talk and would chirp incessantly and divebomb her shoulders until she stopped.
I guess I couldn’t blame my wife. These were essential, practical concerns that needed addressing. I answered every question she posed, but it soured us, and we spent less time together.
She took on the role of caregiver to an elderly neighbor who lived alone. Monica would come home and share stories about this woman and her career as a former stunt pilot and the many tawdry romances she enjoyed, escapades so kinky they made me blush. Although it irked me some. I’d lived half her life and death was as near to me as it was to her. Often, I’d cut my wife off mid-story and ask, “Do we have any birdseed?” She’d give me a dirty look and pull it out of the cupboard.
I never shared my thoughts of despair and loneliness with Monica. I’d sit with it in the dark, like a fly stitched inside a spider’s silk casket: my ears ringing and my chest straining for oxygen. Sometimes I’d wonder what people said when I wasn’t around. Did people think of me in a good light? I wanted to believe they did. But the idea that my friends and family privately reveled in my praise seemed absurd. Everyone I knew savored the delicious thrill of gossip. I can admit it was a weakness of mine.
To my surprise, that stunt woman exited this world before I did. It left me in the unexpected position of consoling my wife. I couldn’t help feel like a man from the past peeking in on the future.
After that, the feeling of terror that haunted me lost its edge. I was bored of being scared shitless. In its place arrived a sense of presentness, as if I’d broken through some shell and was born in full HD. My senses buzzed with an awareness of molecules streaming inside and outside of me, whirling all around, from near and far, across an infinite scope of time. I was here/now; here/now; hear/now.
It’s then that my wren released me of its care and flew wildly inside our home, rocketing down our hallway, loop-de-looping, and gliding in beautiful cursive arcs as if it wished to spell my name.
“Open the window,” I shouted to Monica.
She did, and when the bird caught sight of that beautiful blue vista, it sailed in its direction. But just as it reached the opening, it dipped and plunged, and took root on her head.
“What do I do?” she asked, afraid to move.
“Let it perch,” I said.
She did, and that little wren trilled the most beautiful ballad imaginable. It caused my wife to sob and sob and sob. I did too, a little. And then I left her with her bird, opened the kitchen cupboard, and reached for the birdseed.
This will stay with me for a while
Thanks for the nice comment, Frankie. It means a lot to me.
A worthy winner. An absolutely beautifully written and unusual story. Well done.
Thanks Colette for the incredibly kind comment. I appreciate it.
A haunting story worthy of first place. Powerful images. Relatable. A tale that deserves multiple readings.
Thank you so much Janet for the lovely comment. It was nice to read.
A nice personification or wren-ification of a mesothelioma, and its cure, in the form of its departure, literally, out the window. It’s refreshing to see a malignancy as a pretty thing. Holding on to it, then setting it free. Of course, it reminds of the joke… if the Foo shits wear it.
Thanks Keith. I appreciate the comment, foo sure.
Highly original, mischievous, haunting, full of pathos: beautiful. Congratulations, Luis.
I’ll take any compliment I can get from an wonderful writer like yourself. Thanks for taking the time to read it. It means a lot to me.
You had me from the first line and never let go. It was brilliant in its simplicity. The concepts are so complex and loaded and yet you made them light. You took me on a winged journey, packed so perfectly, with everything I needed. It resonated in a deep part of my understanding. You communicated it so beautifully. Thank you.
Deborah, thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comment. Everything you wrote is exactly the experience I hoped get across. It made my day to read this.
I missed your writing on Instagram, and this reminds why. I’ll be thinking about it for a while.
Thanks so much friend. That’s incredibly kind for you to write.
First I laughed, then I was mesmerized and I cried. You are a magical wordsmith and I loved this.
Thanks for the kind words friend.
But what is the bird? O.o (help I want to understand)
Thanks for the comment Winter. This probably won’t be satisfying but the bird is whatever you make of it. Some stories have tight meanings, some have looser meaning in hopes that it’ll engage you to make sense of it for yourself. This is one of those story. I wished I had a better answer for you. Take care. Thanks for reading the story.
Wonderful image and such a whimsical creature to use as a metaphor. To me, the awareness of my own mortality has always lurked in the background but I’ve never assigned an emotion to it. Lately, as I engage my life more, the awareness comes closer to the surface and I’m perhaps not as bothered by it as I should be (or maybe I shouldn’t). Thank you for this engaging story! -Roberto
Thanks for the thoughtful comment Roberto. I know what you mean exactly.
Excellent story. Original and haunting.
Thanks Ed and thanks for the help!
Beautiful! Magical and poignant! Lovely work, Luis!
What a lovely, poignant story!!
I don’t understand why I am crying after having read this. It’s strange and frightening.
I enjoyed it. Thank you.
Wonderfully written, very emotional and the story really attached itself to me, like the bird on the narrator’s head 🙂
Was the exquisite wren hinting at something beyond brain and body, a plane of possibility that exists across an infinite scope of time; long after the stunt woman, loving-defiant Monica, her anxious husband, his teasing workmates and his skeptical doctor have died?
I’m an entrenched agnostic but this marvelous little wren singing its balad in glorious flutey vibrato makes me wonder.
Thank you, Luis Garcia!
I loved the entrance into this story…beautiful and poignant…I’m so glad I came to read today.
I just discovered this site and your story. How funny and sad; how actually believable in spite of being outrageous! loved it.
This was masterfully written. Very funny and also thought provoking – asks the big questions
Wow, very well-written. Beautiful story. Struck kind of close.
Beautifully written. Thank you.
Excellent neat story.
I loved this story. The little bird would comfort the depressed and then when he was better he went on to the next person.
What an absolutely enchanting story! Who would ever believe a bird perched on someone’s head? But, it’s so believable in this endearing story!
Just beautiful! It made me cry happy ans sad tears.
Beautiful story. I can’t help but wonder was the messenger a magpie?
just wow. So much in this story. The metaphor of the wren was genius.