The Bird Lady in the Attic Stitches Robins Together by Moonlight

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Nine

One by one she pulls them out of her chest, lays them flat on the table to dry. They’re made of red felt. Not red, she thinks. Cherry. Cerise. Cinnabar. The color of fire trucks and bricks. Strawberries thrown at bricks. Fire trucks arriving too late. Oxblood. Wine. Blood. Hidden tales where it’s best not to dwell on what will happen next. She hums as she sews, nothing sad or too jazzy. An old nursery rhyme she barely remembers. Tuffet spider frighten away. Moonlight spills onto the creaky floor. Dust motes hover in the air like stars. It’s a fine evening for tea leaves and pencils. The click of her needles is metronome steady. Each feather meticulously sewn. No need for a machine, though there in the corner sits a spindle, which no one has used for years. She taps her foot impatiently. Jerks her head up, listening. Outside nothing but frogs croaking by the pond and a lovesick coyote who should know better. The work is the same as it’s always been, but age has made her fingers arthritic. It takes longer to thread a needle, to make the robins visible on the page. Her eyes strain to trace their wobbly outlines. Too much effort and they’ll flatten from the weight. Too little and they won’t take wing. Each bird pants as its born, its tiny heart jumping. She tries not to play favorites, to love them equally well, as if they were her children in a very large family. They are her children, birthed from her  memories, torn from her imagination. She would like to go downstairs. Leave the birds to their own devices. Make a fresh cup of lavender tea, read a book about other people’s robins. But if she leaves who knows when she’ll return and what will happen to her little darlings then? She adjusts her glasses, peers down at the latest one, pinned to the velvet mat. It looks up at her, writhing, its inquisitive eye accusing her of something she never did. A stitch here, a snip there. She plumps its red breast. Not red. Vermillion sounds better. Adjusts its talons, which scratch at her palms. Not talons, claws. Pats its head gently. Good robin. Well done. Watches as its wings beat the air urgently, then with a rhythmic, steady grace. Watches as the robin flies out the window into the unforgiving night.   

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