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Artist of the Week (2/6): Stella W.

Title: The Little Bird

Artist: Stella Werbach

Medium: Short story

Kya glanced around the room. She looked up at the ceiling that was too far away. She looked down at the hardwood floors that were honey-colored and squeaky with newness. She spun around, taking in her queen-sized bed and walk-in closet. Besides the bed, the closet, and the walls stretching up and up and up, the room was empty. Kya’s mom stood awkwardly behind her. “We moved the window, did you notice? It was so awkward at that height so we moved it to be centered and a little higher, with a new frame.” “It looks good.” Kya walked over to the window and peered out. She could see some children playing in a neighbor's yard on a trampoline. They both bounced up and down, their small masses barely paying notice to gravity. “I’ll leave you to get settled in. Pizza will be here in an hour.” Kya’s mom walked out of the room. She shut the door slowly. Kya’s mom had always been a little quiet. If you didn’t know them and they stood next to each other and talked, you’d think you were seeing double. Perhaps that's where Kya got her nervous laugh, her affinity towards a big hoodie to drown in, her knowing yet nervous eyes. They both liked cold showers right before bed and hot tea with three ice cubes and a teaspoon of sugar first thing in the morning. And yet the two quiet people had a quiet relationship, in which most words were exchanged with facial expressions and eye contact, not vocal cords and lips. Kya looked out the window again in time to see one of the kids fall off the trampoline and cry for his mom. When the pizza arrived, they both ate voraciously, being their first meal since they got off the plane six hours ago. It was a long and boring flight in which Kya had unbuckled and buckled her seatbelt thirty-two times, opened and closed the window shade twenty-seven times, and turned off and on the overhead light fifty times. But still, Kya walked off the plane as slowly as she could with all of the irritable passengers behind her. San Francisco was a scary and different city. Kya never wanted to step off the plane. As they ate, Kya’s mom made an attempt at asking questions about what they’ll do this weekend and if Kya’s excited for school. But Kya just nodded and stared out the big glass doors at the fog dyed blue with the contamination of dusk. She did not want to step off the plane. That night, Kya lay in her bed, waiting to fall asleep. She was staring at the fan above her, which was just barely circling. Kya wasn’t tired. Still, she closed her eyes, thinking that maybe she could feel the lightest feather of an air current coming from the fan. The sound of something violently hitting her window made her jolt up suddenly and tweak her neck. From bed, Kya looked at her window, which was still rattling eerily. Kya got up. Through the glass she saw a little creature on the ground in the backyard, thrashing hysterically in place. She ran as quickly as she could downstairs and into the backyard- the little bird had stopped thrashing by then and was frozen, a wing sticking out awkwardly, the other one tucked against its side. It stared blankly forward. No, no, no, Kya thought. She dropped to her knees and reached out a shaky finger to touch the bird. It showed no reaction. A bitter breeze of revelation twirled through Kya’s hair. It was still breathing, but stunned. The way she saw it, there were three options: one, she could wait with the bird and hope it gets better even though it probably won’t, two, she could pretend she never saw it and go to bed, and three, she could reach for that rock next to her and put the bird out of his misery. Pallid in the foggy night’s bitterness, she shook all three options out of her head and sighed worryingly. The wind blew through the old trees and leaves started falling slowly around them. She cupped her two hands and scooped the little bird up. It didn’t move. She ran one of her fingers down his spine again and again, hoping for something to happen. They shivered against the night’s shadows in sync.

The wind stopped. The motorcycles and sirens hushed down. Nothing stirred. The world held its breath and waited. The house sat on its haunches and glared down at the little girl and the bird. Everything was still and quiet and new. The bird, with a sudden jolt of clarity, looked up at the little girl- acknowledging her for the first time. Kya looked into the little bird’s eyes and saw her own reflection. She smiled at herself, at the bird. M aybe this isn’t so bad, thought Kya, I could keep him and name him and feed him. He won’t miss his flight. He’ll stay with me. The stars all tilted a little to the right. But the little bird was ready. Kya could see this. Bittersweetly, she watched him summon his wings and take off into the wind and low-hanging clouds. A single warm tear turned cold snailing down her cheek. Kya saw the bird climbing up and up in the uncertain air, which shoved him left and right as it wished. The bird kept climbing. And a little piece of Kya felt happy for the little bird. It was now a flick of a black pen against the blues and greys and purples. Finally, it reached a point where the wind couldn’t push it around and it flew straight, peacefully. She buried him in the backyard that night. And a little piece of Kya felt happy for the little bird.


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