“Mother to Chick” – Fiction by Rebecca Ann Jordan

Young girl eating a bird (The pleasure) - Rene Magritte, 1927
Young girl eating a bird (The pleasure) – Rene Magritte, 1927

Earlier this year, we asked Rebecca Ann Jordan if she could write us a flash fiction inspired by Rene Magritte’s painting “Young girl eating a bird.” The result is the enchantingly eccentric & superbly disturbing “Mother to Chick,” one of many flappy lits you can read in our Fall 2015 issue.

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IN THOSE DAYS, WOMEN WEREN’T PERMITTED TO FLY. It would have been unseemly, like wearing pants then, or wearing skirts now.

I was born with feathers tucked between my teeth. I bet they don’t tell it that way. Screams of horror at being thrust into a cold world turned to giggles, feathers tickling the mouth’s roof. They who grasped my ankles and spun me around, who made me lust for vertigo, also made me vomit out the feathers.

It was already too late for me. I’d been hooked on flight.

The birds, they listen to me in the way that dogs or horses listen to men but not women. I’ve never seen a man could charm a finch down from an apple tree. (Disregard tall tales, always shinier in hindsight anyway.)

I, avian hoarder, began to accumulate them young. A hummingbird perched on my ear, woodpecker on shoulder, quail hurrying along in my perfumed wake. Now they hover, churning flurry, behind me—a mile-long veil of feathers and cacophonic chirps. All want attention.

All prove their value with flight.

My little dog chases the ground-dwellers until they’re forced to light upon my skin, digging in little claws.

I made my own attempt in all the usual ways, plus:

  • Lifting molted feathers, fallen in a flurry from my train. First glued, then soldered to my skin, shoved into holey pores. I thought then to skip the easily-melted wax; I’m not incapable of learning from the past
  • Weaving a net the larger birds could burrow up inside, press against the roof, and me with fingers twined in the ends, they my balloon, I their weight. (Here, you can still see the rope burn that redly elongates my lines of head/lines of heart)
  • Making a machine. Perhaps the magic wasn’t in the birds; selfish to keep it to themselves. I made it from branches and leaves; gingham and lace from my dress I tore to pieces; strings and papa’s gears and rubber bands. Rubber bands propelled the gears that tugged the strings that pulled the branches and gingham and lace, all strapped between my shoulder blades. Up and down, went my fake branch / gingham wings, up and down and up and down and up and down. I almost felt myself getting lighter on the upswing, but down always counteracted

Each spring I command them to plant like a man would command a dog to fetch. My hand stretches up, pretends to cup the rising moon. They rise as one body, a hundred million jewels in a bedazzled tide, and my hand falls; they plummet. Planted in the dirt like that, tails and feet sticking up to the sky, gives me vicious satisfaction. In planting seasons, they are just as grounded as I.

My little dog digs them up and eats them unless I’m watching.

One time I let him to see what would happen.

Nothing outside of expectations.

In this way, minus canine happenstance, they grow.

Each fall I help dig them out of their holes. On this occasion there was an accident.

What you must understand is my birds grow like seeds, their heads avocado seeds or cherry pits or red beans. I command them to plant, and so too I harvest.

I shooed my little dog away, and bent to wrap fingers around the little bodies planted there. Their paper-thin roots tore away easily as one by one they came loose, seed-heads spinning. They stumbled around me, then into trees to escape the snapping little dog.

One even had the gall to take flight, to hover above me, just out of my reach. Were my fingers anathema to her? Should I apologize for the planting, for nurturing her to grow, as is a qualification of life as an earth-bound creature of generalized female persuasion? She chirped, this red-breasted robin. Dove into the sky. Came back, watching me expectantly. She lighted on my head and pressed her beak into my hair, vibrating softly in the encouragement of a mother to its chick.

My hand shot out to grab her.

She fluttered against my heart line and my head line. I peeled back her feathers. I peeled back the red skin of her breast to the red, pulsing insides to see what magics of her heart could make her fly.

Her little meats tasted like blood, feathers, dirt, wind without and within.

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RebeccaJordan-21REBECCA ANN JORDAN  is a speculative fiction author and artist. She has published fiction and poetry in Infinite Science Fiction One, Fiction Vortex, FLAPPERHOUSE, Strangelet, Swamp Biscuits & Tea, Yemassee Journal and more. Becca is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from California Institute of the Arts and is a graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop in 2015. See more of her work at rebeccaannjordan.com.

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