Friday, June 18, 2010

TO TRICK A MOCKINGBIRD

Friday Flash. Done.

TO TRICK A MOCKINGBIRD


Brett waited to take a deep breath until after he crossed the manicured lawn and entered the tree-lined walkway. Green-scented air filled his lungs. Before he passed Nurse Riann wheeling a patient back to the facility, he ducked onto a footpath. Whether her contempt included all orderlies or just him, he didn't know; but he did not want to confront her scorn on his lunch break. Birdsong led him to the pond.

Brett ate his sandwich on a rock by the water. Goldfinches danced atop a broken fir as a bullfrog pinged its lazy song while long-legged insects skated across the surface. Brett savored his refuge.

A string of song burst from a nearby tree. Brett recognized a towhee-trill, as well as that of an oriole, a chickadee and a blue jay. He also identified a cat's meow and a warbled alarm. The mockingbird sang through its repertoire several times, enough for Brett to pick up the pattern. He mimicked the song as he returned to the footpath.

Dull silver glinted between leaves. White-patched wings bolted into the sky then swooped close, just clearing Brett's head. The bird's blue eyes flashed at Brett before he stumbled, falling through the undergrowth onto a crutch. Greenbriar marked the aluminum. He wondered how crutches landed so far from the nursing home. He brushed off his scrubs and scanned the upper branches for his blue-eyed attacker. The trees were silent.

###

Brett glided the mop into room 214. Less than two weeks ago, Mrs. Wilson had sat up in bed and complained to him about everything from food to dust bunnies. She'd given him her blue-eyed stare, waited for his, "May I do anything else for you Mrs. Wilson?" She demanded her crutches and he helped her hobble to her chair by the window. "Freedom," she had whispered, then stared outside.

He peered at her wizened face, her gaping mouth, her still body, willing her to complain instead of lying there catatonic. He wished her chart was wrong. Stroke victims rarely recovered a second time. He whistled softly as he passed the mop under her bed, then opened the blinds before he left the room.

A faint chirp stopped him. Brett glanced out the window. Distant tree tops swayed in a breeze, but nothing else moved. He heard the chirp again, faced the bed.  Mrs. Wilson opened her eyes and closed her mouth.

"Mrs. Wilson?"

Nurse Riann appeared at his side. "Other rooms need your attention, Mr. Norwood."

Brett stared at the bed as Nurse Riann injected medicine into the IV tube. Mrs. Wilson's lids fluttered. "MR. NORWOOD!"

"Yes ma'am," Brett mumbled and left the room. Mrs. Wilson's eyes were brown.

###

Brett entered Room 214 with his linen cart. Mrs. Wilson's mouth gaped open, her eyelids shut, her chest rising and falling with her shallow breaths. Brett whistled as he changed her sheets.

Mrs. Wilson's eyes fluttered open, revealing brown eyes. Brett wondered if he had imagined her with blue eyes. Her mouth pursed closed. Brett tucked a clean sheet over her and continued whistling. She chirped.

"Mrs. Wilson?"

She chirped an oriole's sound. Brett mimicked her. Mrs. Wilson whistled a jay. He mimicked again. They both whistled through the mockingbird's repertoire, matching sound for sound. She turned towards the window.

Brett opened the blinds to a flash of gray and white. A bird perched on the outside ledge, answering Mrs. Wilson's songs. The outside bird expanded the pattern; Mrs. Wilson repeated. The bird had brown eyes.

Chuckling to himself, Brett wondered what he was thinking. Whistling ability was not a stroke side-effect, as far as he knew.

The bird added a groan, closely mimicked by Mrs. Wilson, which resembled her former voice.  Brett rushed to the bed. The mockingbird on the ledge became agitated, then bolted into the sky. Brett rushed to the window in time to see the bird swoop at a person below. Nurse Riann swatted at the bird as her gaze swept the second floor.  Brett locked stares with her. She hurried into the nursing home.

Within minutes Brett heard the squeak of rubber soles against tiles. Nurse Riann entered the room.

"Mrs. Wilson didn't have a stroke," Brett said.  Nurse Riann stared at the patient. "Well?" Brett asked.

"Since when does an orderly demand?" The mockingbird returned to the window ledge, shrilled a piercing high-low call, then flew away. Mrs. Wilson's mouth opened and closed, soundless. "Get a wheelchair, Mr. Norwood."

Brett obeyed, hurrying back to the room.  He caught Nurse Riann cooing as she gently stroked the old woman's wispy hair. "Only a few days of freedom, she broke the rules. We'll get you back." Brett cleared his throat as he approached the bed.

Once outside, the mockingbird swooped close to the trio before it disappeared.  "That was the male," Nurse Riann said. "Mockingbirds are fearless, sometimes even attacking hawks. They are truly free."

She led them in the bird's direction towards the pond. Two mockingbirds landed on a close branch, one chattering, the other glaring.  "And they are monogamous." The glaring bird's eyes were blue. The old woman struggled in the chair. 

"Mrs. Wilson did not have a stroke," Brett said. Nurse Riann gave him a taut smile. "She's not Mrs. Wilson," she said.

Nurse Riann raised her hands, returned the blue-eyed mockingbird's glare. "Time to return, Mrs. Wilson." Nurse Riann began the repertoire of sounds, waved her hands, seeming to mesmerize the blue-eyed bird. It trembled, then alit onto the nurse's outstretched arm. In unison, the male bird, the woman in the chair and the nurse mimicked a human groan. The blue-eyed bird collapsed; the patient slumped under Brett's grip.

The old woman in the chair moaned, staring at them with blue eyes. "Freedom," she whispered. "Freedom," Nurse Riann whispered to the mockingbirds. Brett followed the birds flight over the pond.

21 comments:

Bukowski's Basement said...

A gorgeously-told, well executed tale that explores the freedoms of life and how it can and may slip away at any point. A very intriguing piece, Peg...

Eric J. Krause said...

Very cool story. The descriptions are great. Excellent job!

Mark Kerstetter said...

That's weird, but in a really cool, surrealistic way. There is something unique about mocking birds. In Florida they'll sing outside your window all night long with such intense energy that it can be maddening.

John Wiswell said...

Unusual foreword this week. "Friday Flash. Done." You're not seeing it as a chore, are you?

Carrie said...

Wow, this was immense in its brevity. The descriptions are spot on. The tale was so well laid-out. You definitely have a gift.

pegjet said...

Thank you Ant, Eric and Carrie. Much apprecieated.

In New Hampshire too Mark! One has been waking me almost every night before dawn. For the past two weeks, they've been fascinating me.

John, no. Time crunch this week, never a chore. Hope this didn't read as one.

Tomara Armstrong said...

You really know your birds! I really enjoyed this... very sweet.
~2

Diandra said...

A beautiful story.

Linda said...

Surreal indeed. Very unusual, and I love mockingbirds and this story. Nurse Riann seemed so evil at first, but in the end she was the vehicle for the patient's freedom. Peace...

Laurita said...

This was a gorgeous story. Some really nice descriptions. Loved the characters.

I've never seen a mockingbird, now that makes me sad.

Valerie said...

I really enjoyed this. Sad but also uplifting. Perfect morning reading.

mazzz in Leeds said...

Loved this. Amazing descriptions when he's on his lunch break, and the whole bird thing... brilliant. If only all the Mrs Wilsons of the world could experience this

Michael Solender said...

very mystical like many of your pieces peggy. great imagination and flawlessly written. great piece.

Matt Merritt said...

I love how Nurse Riann goes from bitter and angry in the reader's eyes to caring and magical. This was fun.

宇軒宇軒 said...

You are flattering me..............................................................

Pamila Payne said...

A modern fairy tale. Lovely and sad.

Al Bruno III said...

That was a great bit of magical realism or fantasy or whatever you kids call it these days.

A standing ovation for this one.

Danielle La Paglia said...

A cool story - beautifully told.

quin browne said...

the story told was one worth hearing again and again... affirming hope is a powerful thing.

very nice bit of work, peggy...

Cathy Olliffe said...

Oh wow, Peggy...that was just wikkid in every way. Such an original idea, so beautifully written, and I mean that absolutely - from the description of the birds and the critters during Brett's lunch break to the powerful ending. This was such a human tale - yes, with fantasy mixed in - but touching and oh so real.
(Yeah, I know what you mean by your intro - it's always a bit of an amazement when another flash gets posted! This one was a beaut!)

洪筱婷 said...

期待你每一篇文章......................................................................