Honourable mention in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
Mama says I can fly, I just need to practise. Why else would I be blessed with wings? Papa says he will not tolerate such stupidity and superstition inside the house. Every night after my bath he massages ointments and salves that burn deep into the tiny feathers. He wants to make sure I will never fly anywhere; women can’t be trusted with such freedom.
Mama prayed for my wings long before I floated down. She tells me this every time I plummet out of the trees. She ate every type of bird imaginable, exhausting local skies, ordering secret boxes from catalogues and magic men. Exotic feathers tangled in her dark hair and pieced into her dresses left a moulting trail.
Before Papa knew Mama he thought she was beautiful. He was sixteen and didn’t know better. Instantly he fell in love with her plumage, following her around the village at every chance. He returned from the city with treasures and trinkets to cement her affections and secure her hand. Protests and cries from his family sounded like the hum of insects close to his ears. It was hard to make out what they were saying; he was too young to understand the language of wisdom anyway.
Now Papa gets angry and yells. He storms into the forest and stays for hours, sometimes days. Papa is cursed with a lunatic wife and a demon child. This is what they say to our faces and scrawl on our doors. Mama says the women hate me because I have what they don’t. Papa says all his hard-earned money goes to the paint store.
My siblings are all kewpie dolls. Papa gave them to Mama after each baby died (those tiny little sisters I was never introduced to). He knew she would love their wings, find solace in their angelic disposition. Mama is happy because they can never leave her. Leave like I will one day when my wings are strong.
Sometimes I am afraid at the way Mama stares at me. Please don’t eat me like the others, Mama. She smiles and relaxes, promising she won’t. No sooner than she comforts me, though, she quickly falls back into that empty stare and I run to play outside, high up where she can’t reach me.
Papa complains that he is haunted, that birds come to him in dreams. They hover above him while he sleeps, their beating wings causing him to stir all night. The black cherry trees are far too tall and I’m afraid to break more of my delicate bones. I practise in the house now. In the darkness where it is safe.