August 03, 2015 11:54:09 PM





The sun rose and everything fell.
Early birds, early birds rise and fall, fall and burn. The early bird heeds morning’s call and gets the worm. He gets the worm, gets the worm.
Doug woke up in a thick sweat. He panted and panted. His wife turned over on her side and cooed in her sleep. Doug cursed silently. He hadn’t had nightmares for months now. Times were supposed to be good--one kid was learning to fly, another was ready to hatch soon. They’d moved and moved and moved before, but now they were settled. Nomadic feathers flocked together into stability. Doug prayed for this kind of life as a young sparrow. He wiped the sweat around his beak and settled back into bed. Doug looked over at Shelly. He smiled. At the end of the day, he was all worry and feathers; she was his love, the wind under his wings, the force behind his talons. And Shelly never had nightmares. She was a good wife. She made good pies, good children, and good love. She never complained about the worms that Doug brought home, and always made sure the kid ate first.
So Doug closed his eyes and felt the air simmer around his body. He listened to the night preen the forest further into sleep, and he followed.

“Honey, do you want a slice of pie?”
Doug straightened his tie and shook his head. “No, dear, thank you.”
Shelly smiled and shrugged. “More for Alex, then.”
“How is the little guy? He flying yet?”
A soft thud leaned through the air and Doug laughed. Shelly shook her head. “That’d be your son,” she said.
“Our son,” he said. “And we’re damn proud of him.”
A small ball of feathers and pudge flitted into the room. It collapsed against the bark and sighed. “I’ll never learn to fly,” Alex said, and hid his face under his wings. “I’m sorry Ma, Pa. I can’t do it.”
Doug took a step toward his son and knelt down. Take away the fat and fluff and Alex would be a handsome, young bird. “Son, it’s hard to fly! Took me quite a while to learn. It takes everyone a long time to learn.”
“Not for Atticus,” Alex said miserably. “Atticus has been flying for three months now.”
“That’s just a rumor.”
“No, he told me just now. Made fun of me, and everything.”
Doug looked over at Shelly. “That’s Michael’s son, right?” She nodded.
Doug sighed and put his forehead to his son’s. “Son, listen to me. Atticus is just like his father: a bragger, an overachiever. They don’t know how to be happy, or content. Their kind, mockingbirds, they take everything they want, and they’re still never happy. Not happy like me and your mom are. Right, honey?”
Shelly finished cutting a fresh pie in half. She set the knife down. “Yes,” she said.
“There, you see? Now, go off and try again, eh?”
Alex jumped out back into the forest. A dark gray feather settled to the floor. Doug picked it up. “This doesn’t look like Alex’s down. We have brown feathers”
“It might be the down of that Atticus boy,” Shelly said. She walked over and took it between her feathers, inspecting it. “Yes, it’s most likely that boy’s feathers. They must have rough-housed, or something.”
“Ah, most likely. It’s nothing, then.” Doug kissed her on the cheek. “Well I’m off to work.”
“Really? You’re leaving awfully early.”
“I figured it out, Shelly.” Doug picked up his briefcase and moved to the door. “Michael flies faster than me, so I have to leave earlier! It’s been the solution all along. He has no idea, so I’ll be able to get the ripest worms out there. Wish me luck.”
She tucked the gray feather underneath the counter and waved Doug goodbye as he flew out.

Doug re-tied the knot in his tie as he flew. It was that time in the day when the horizon shed the sun and it bursted through like a goldfinch’s feather. The dew had settled like dust, and the worms would be wriggling their ways to the surface.
He banked to the left of a tree and headed for the clearing. There--that small, free patch of grass. He saw it and his heart swooned. He felt it pounding against his breast. No more pies, it was all worms tonight. Their bald heads dotted the clearing like pink gems.
Then, a dark blur. And then that dark blur circled round, and Doug was staring at a sea of green again. Michael flapped up to him, briefcase held snugly by one talon, a smirk on his face. And then he flew off.

Doug flew the long way home. He needed to think. He needed to breathe. Doug flew through a neighborhood he didn’t recognize. Blew past the homes and branches, all so big, all so tiny. The harps and chords of all those birds in their homes fluttered by him. He shook his tie loose and let it spin all the way down, down to the ground. Doug was upset. Doug was crazed. He felt like his talons would fall out.
“Fine, I’ll leave!”
Doug stopped, mid-air. He saw Atticus angrily leave his home, a tall oak with thinning, red leaves. Doug was curious. Michael lived there. He waited till Atticus had flown far away, and then perched on a branch near a window of Michael’s home.
“Be more careful next time. My husband found one of your feathers in our home.”
“Fine. Whatever.”
“Is that really how you should be speaking to me? After I warned you he was leaving earlier?”
“Who was that really for, me or you?”
“...Just open the briefcase.”
Doug heard a click and a gasp--then a long train of slurps.

Alex’s wings ached, but he pushed, and pushed. He felt the sweat on his feathers and could hear every sound in the forest. He opened his beak and shouted and flapped. And he was flying.
“I’m...I’m flying!”
And then he was hit, and then falling. As he fell to the ground, he watched the blur that hit him, a fast brown blur that cawed and cawed and didn’t stop.
When he flew home, Alex knew what was waiting inside. Alex stared at the door handle and slowly turned the knob.