So Far Back

Okay, okay, okay.

Ah, okay, okay.

This blue bird fainted and fell into some laundry in Poe’s living room. It was flailing around like a fish. It would’ve died, but Poe came out of his study and noticed the movement. He stopped his pacing to investigate.

“The hell?”

The blue bird said, “Help!”

Poe reached down and scooped the critter up in his hands.

“The hell are you doing in my laundry?”

“Suffocating,” it said. “What do you do? Those clothes are rancid.”

“I suffer,” said Poe.

The blue bird lifted its wing to its forehead and leaned so far back it flipped out of Poe’s hand and onto the floor.

“Shit,” said Poe. “You alright?”

“No,” said the blue bird. “Which way to the exit?”

“Well, I think—Hey, stick around, please? I’d like someone to talk to.”

The blue bird stretched its long legs. One was slightly shorter than the other, so it leaned to one side.

“You want I should listen to you talk?” it said.

“Yes,” said Poe.

“What about?”

“Oh, the things.”

“That sounds dirty-minded. I don’t go in for those chats.”

“It’s not! And anyway, what’s wrong with dirty-minded things?”

“That’s for the right company, and no offense, but it’s not you,” said the blue bird.

Poe covered his mouth. He held it there longer than he should have.

The blue bird flew up to the stove. It looked in the pan.

“I heard tell that there was once a princess who asked for one gift from her father the king. He promised it before she even said it (which you ought not do). She asked for the gift of flight. The king had his people investigate. Turns out we have light bones, light as empty twigs. That’s how we get about.”

Poe sat on the floor. His eyes were red, his lids puffy.

“The king explained the findings. Light bones, aerodynamics, all that. The princess held him to his word. A promise is a promise is bondage. The king knew it. He had them make a feather suit for her with wide flaps between the wrist and ribs. There was also a tail of sorts between the ankles. Finally, the king sucked innards from her bones. She was light but brittle, and her head was still like a rock. So he scooped out all he could, just enough.”

“He murdered her!” said Poe.

“See, now, I’m not finished. Settle down. The king took these parts of her and kept them safe in the basement where it was cold and rainy. Well, drippy. That old moisture. So she was preserved, you see. And then she was carried to the top of a ridge, held up by the wrists and ankles, and thrown to the wind.”

The blue bird nudged the meat in the pan. It was cold. The grease was congealed.

“Quail?” it asked.

“Well? Did the princess fly?”

“Uh, yeah, pretty far. As far as ducks. And the king never saw her again. That’s quail, right?”

Poe stood up. He wiped his face and looked at the pan.

“No, I um, I think it’s chicken.”

The blue bird looked up, then flew to the window.

“Do your laundry,” it said. “And clean your pan.”

“Hey, what was that story about?” asked Poe.

The blue bird held its wing to its head again and fell out through the window. It yelled “It’s about whatever!”