“A Bird Before His Time,” by Phillip Sterling
When he arrived at the edge, it was nothing like anyone had predicted. The surface was ochre, sandstone-ish, worn to—as they say—“a dull sheen,” perhaps by eons of reluctant feet. Where the sheen leveled, a woman sat on one of two delicately scrolled iron chairs that flanked a small, round iron table. It was the type of furniture his mother had once called “ice cream” and repainted with Rustoleum in shades of Antique White.
The woman wore white as well. Chiffon, he’d have said, if he’d had any recollection of chiffon, which was before his time. She’d arrived before him, predictably. She was young and lovely, the grandmother he’d never met. She seemed to be waiting.
The sun behind him hung in the haze with the dull orange blur of a moth’s cocoon. Ahead of him, beyond the table (under which the woman’s shapely ankles crossed left over right), the sky appeared to be a soft gray hat—a felt hat, if he’d ever seen one—with a single white feather, reminiscent of a bird he could not recall the name of, a bird before his time. He took the seat opposite.
Have you brought the rain? she asked.
No, he said. I thought you were waiting for me.
For the rain, she said, her voice the sound of moisture.
I have brought no rain, he said. No rain is expected.
I have been waiting a long time, she said, without rain. I thought you would be rain.
I am not rain, he said. But I am tired from my journey, so I will rest and wait with you.
Thank you, she said, and turned to face the edge. His eyes followed, closed.
It is not what you expected, she said.
No, he would have said, it is not what I expected, but his voice made no sound, his mouth without wings.
About the Author:
This piece was selected as part of the “Dis/appearances” theme, guest edited by Matt Tompkins, author of Souvenirs and Other Stories and Studies in Hybrid Morphology.
Image Credit: © cat_arch_angel – stock.adobe.com