Instead of Talking About Forever, We Shall Talk About the Birds

“Utopia Magnolia Cradled Budgie”, by artist Emma Hack

This story is my contribution to this week’s Trifecta writing challenge.  Without the title, it is exactly 333 words, and it’s in response to the THIRD PROMPT.  (I’m trying to do the first two prompts as well, but I’m an extremely slow editor…)  

Instead of Talking About Forever, We Shall Talk About the Birds

I will always remember Caitlin as a little blonde in a plaid pinafore.  Never mind that she eventually became a cheerleader and a huge bitch…  My earliest memories are of her and Matthew.  We met in preschool and built our first castles together.  We thought they were amazing, even at two feet tall.  I remember playing on the playground, swinging our bodies into the sky, and watching the birds that circled above our heads.  What I can’t remember is why I ever liked her.

I remember everything I liked about him.  He was funny and talented.  Most of the boys I knew were dumb, but he was like me.  We were the proud recipients of all the same made-up awards.  Fake gold pins are tacky, but at least we were tacky together.  Caitlin was the opposite.  Petite, athletic, and blonde, she became part of a different crowd, a snarky crowd that enjoyed whispering.  She became unknown territory, volatile and treacherous, whereas Matthew was steadfast.

In high school, Matthew became a catch overnight.  One day I looked up and he was a foot taller than me and handsome, with dark eyes and quick wit.  The nerdy kid was still there, but it only seemed to enhance, to shade in what would have otherwise been one-dimensional.  Because he was colorblind, his best artwork was stark; machinery, cartoons, birds.  Pen and ink was Matthew’s primary language.

It was Matthew who first told me.  He omitted the gory details.  Afterwards, he spoke about the migratory habits of birds, how one day they’re there, and the next day they’re simply… gone.

Sometimes I see birds flying near the horizon, where the sky meets the earth, and I think about Caitlin. How could she be twenty years old, and think that her best years were behind her?  I wonder what it was that made her so mean.  I wonder what made her so unhappy.  Perhaps we weren’t so different.  Perhaps she only needed to fly, but I’ll never know.

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16 Responses to Instead of Talking About Forever, We Shall Talk About the Birds

  1. El Guapo says:

    Love the title, and you captured what I thought was the melancholy wistfulness of the song beautifully!
    Can’t wait to see what you do with the other two prompts.

    Seriously, loved this!

    • Oh, thank you! I’m a terrible editor, and really struggle with word count constraints. I couldn’t not do the story though, once I realized all of the weird coincidences… the preschool trifecta, all 33 years old now. Well, we would have all been 33…

  2. Wow! When Matthew first told her, I thought it meant he told her that he was actually in love with Caitlin. But she killed herself. I love the persona here trying to remember what she liked, trying to figure out what made this girl such a bitch.

    • Thank you and welcome to my blog! She really was that bitchy teenage cheerleader so many of us know… but people are people too. And it’s often the nasty ones who are the most insecure.

  3. Andrew says:

    Did you win the challenge?

  4. Eric Misener says:

    To me, this contains classic literary misdirection, which is one of my favorite devices. You also seem to have a flair for allegorical metaphor (as opposed to textual metaphore); the imagery of birds and sky is great.

    • Thank you. I love latching onto a theme, and just weaving it in here and there. Somehow it always seems to work best with nature.

      Oh, and thank you for visiting and for leaving a comment!

  5. rosemary mint says:

    Wonderful story. Love the title and the image, the character development and analysis, and the depth of reflection.

    • Thank you! I am completely stuck on the new prompt… Congratulations to you and good luck!

      P.S. I don’t really understand why your messages are going straight to spam when they don’t have hyperlinks.

      • rosemary mint says:

        Ugh, many of mine do. 😦 When I changed my name to “rosemary mint,” it started happening. I’ve changed it back to the old name and then back again. But no matter what, I’ve damned myself to spam.

  6. rosemary mint says:

    Congratulations on the win! I left you a comment last night, but it must have gone to your spam folder.

  7. Andrea Miles says:

    Congrats on your 3rd place win! Great story!

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