General Fiction posted July 14, 2021

This work has reached the exceptional level
How do you decide which path to take?


by CadenAaron

Birds are an indicator species, she told me. My mother. That's why they keep them down in the coal mines. To ward off danger, and serve as harbingers for what's to come.

I saw a dead Robin on the side of the road. A fledgling, barely rid of its undercoat feathers, full of fluff. It's little head was cocked at an angle.

There was a bird virus going around. Left and right, diseased birds were dropping. And it was only in full effect up here, in the mountains. Or rather, down below, in the river valley of Charleston, full of factories. But since I left Florida, everything felt "uppish," elevated and mountainous. Quiet and secretive except when it's not. Friendly voices kept the suspicion at bay.

My dad drove intoxicated. Last night leaving the bar. His truck tires clambered along the midnight road home in large ominous loops. I bit my nails to bloody tips in the passenger seat.

This morning, paper remnants of a straw wrapper blinked out from the clipped grass. White against green, backlit by the brown rolling river. I collected the spent cigarette butts littering the deck and fingered the small plastic bag with the powdery film, covering it like algae. I deposited all this into the trash can in the kitchen. I wiped my hands, washed them clean.

I sat in the yard and played frisbee with my dog. His one floppy ear jet black, wagging in the sun. I wondered if I could feel that happy. I wondered if he saw the dead robin along the sidewalk. We quietly went inside. On the recliner, cracking a soft smile, sat my dad. The keys jangled subtly, muted against the lining of my pocket as I walked to the car with my suitcase and Lou's water bowl.

Harbingers are there for a reason. I thought of the Robin as I pointed my tires south.


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