“The Birds: Little Birds,” by Candace Walsh (Fiction ’19)

Fiction alum Candace Walsh was recently featured in Entropy Magazine. Read an excerpt of “The Birds: Little Birds” below:

The Birds: Little Birds

Before we were told to avoid air travel, but after the lines at Costco were thirty people deep, the house finches chose our ledge.

Through the window I saw one brindled dun and gray, cream-rimed at her wing’s scallops and striped breast, her mate the same but red-capped and cloaked. Tightly-locused hopping on their splinter-fine feet. Heads domed and darting. My hands washed the dishes with acorn-scented soap. My winter ears drank in their susurrating chirps.

We’d lived in the house less than a year. I thought, it’s lovely to be doing the dishes with a view of a little side porch with a pitched roof, boards painted gray and white with birds to match, our narrow muddy driveway, and beyond that, a grassy field.

* * *

Before there were cases in more than eight states, but after I mixed up a batch of aloe and vodka hand sanitizer because Purell was sold out, I flew to a conference after Helen said, I’m only gonna say it once. I think you should stay home.

Of course I went anyway. She’s the cautious one, I’m the queen of cockamamie schemes. I am the gas and she is the brake. Sometimes I get to bring us someplace far and fast. Sometimes she shuts it all down. Mostly we glide and lurch and rev our way through.

I returned on a Sunday morning red-eye. As always, my absence had sparked Helen’s drive for home improvement in ways my presence dulled.

I painted the mailbox, she said, as if she’d merely cloaked the metal thing with spray paint instead of applying her trompe l’oeil talent and toil to it. She transformed the flat-bottomed metal canister into a mini version of our house: white siding, smoke-gray shutters and window boxes, charcoal-shingled roof.

I imagined her standing out beside it last week in the tall ochre nudged by spring green shoots, as intermittent cars drove by too fast, wearing a baseball hat to thwart the wind’s reckless quest to flop her pewter hair over squinting blue eyes, paint brush in one of her sturdy-fingered hands, palette in the other.

“I love it.” I hugged her. “I’m sorry you stood out in the cold, though.”

“Silly. I unscrewed it from the post and painted it in my studio.”

“So handy,” I said, and she smiled, sun glinting off her right canine.

I went to bed without showering off the air travel taint. When she got in our bed beside me, our lungs quickened and our blood warmed and fluxed. Our bodies were quick to notch us together, slow and then fast, bringing me the last lengths home.

Read this piece in its entirety here: https://entropymag.org/the-birds-little-birds/