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Entry Deadline: CLOSED
Out of more than 130 entries, WD editors and readers chose this winning entry, submitted by William Vingi of Charleston, S.C.
Of a Feather
“You’re saying she never mentioned a bird?” The attorney shifted awkwardly in his chair, peering around the cage that had been placed between us, just beside my mother’s will.
I tried to think back to when I’d last visited. Last Christmas? No, I’d spent that with Dad. Could it have been her birthday two years ago?
A memory flitted to the surface:
We were sitting in her favorite teashop, talking for an hour about nothing in particular. I swear she had a fear of silence, as if a moment of it would draw suspicion. When some familiar faces came through the door, she perched upright in her seat preening herself, then, flashing her jewelry, she waved them over. After a flurry of pleasantries, her friends scanned me up and down as if I were an exotic pet. Mom eyed them nervously, searching for signs of approval.
Once they left for their table, she begged me to take off my sunglasses while we were inside, quickly swooping to snatch them off my face. I snapped at her, hitting her hand away and causing a cup to shatter on the floor. Every head turned as my mother flushed pink. She meekly asked to go.
The bird chirped sharply, rousing me from a stare. I felt my mouth had gone dry and I apologized to the lawyer, not knowing how long I’d been silent.
“No, she never mentioned it,” I muttered.
The bird sang happily as I drove back to my mother’s house, getting louder as we pulled into the driveway. Everything looked as if she’d just been there. A garden spade lay beside freshly planted daffodils, a bird feeder hung outside the front window, filled to the brim. The front door swept aside a pile of mail as we made our way inside, but otherwise the home was spotless.
I placed the birdcage onto the coffee table and fell into the couch, sinking down and letting the abundant smell of potpourri fill my lungs. I tried to keep my eyes shut and close out the world, but couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. I peeked through the tint of my sunglasses and locked gazes with the bird in front of me.
She was a beautiful creature. A small parrot with a soft grey breast, cloaked in an emerald green that faded across her torso. Where the grey and emerald met, you could distinguish a hint of blue that reminded me of my mother’s eyes. I rose to unhinge the cage door and the bird burst out across the room.
With complete lack of abandon she flew toward the window, landing delicately on the sill. Spying another bird outside at the feeder, she puffed her chest out and ruffled the plumage around her neck, displaying her refined colors. When the visitor didn’t take notice, she clicked her beak in disappointment and glided over to the nearby tea set.
She plucked the lid from the pot and dropped it to the side, revealing a hidden stash of crackers. She indulged in a few, then quickly brushed the crumbs off with her tail. I continued watching in fascination as her attention turned to the bookshelf. She hovered from each level, looking intently at the neatly lined picture frames.
The final photo was of me. I was standing in a red plaid shirt, half smiling at the camera with five o’clock shadow and uncombed hair. It was a picture my mom had insisted on taking before we went to her favorite tea shop on her birthday two years ago.
The parrot sat in front of the photo for a time, then, without warning, darted over to me and perched on the rim of my sunglasses. She bent over and looked through the lens at me. With what looked like a smile, she tapped.
I took off the glasses and hugged her tight.