California Writers Club, Sacramento Branch
2016 Short, Short Story Writing Contest
by Jessica A. Moore
Fergus played the statue in the sandbox. She gripped a plastic pail filled with earth in each hand. Stock-still, her skin changed to stone.
Granny bobbed in a rocking chair on the patio. Knitting needles clacked with every woven loop.
“What are you doing, Gus?”
Fergus didn’t risk an answer. Surely, robins would swoop down and mistake the soil in her buckets for seed. She’d create a nest in the crook of her hands, and call a birdie her own. But talons never grazed Fergus’ skin. She stomped out of the box, and learned about letting go.
Fergus grew up, filling her head with all the beautiful things she could hold. When her grandmother fell sick, the way grandmothers sometimes do, Fergus sat on the edge of the bed cradling Granny’s hand. The elderly woman’s bony chest strained under a cotton nightgown trimmed in lace. Moments ticked by, and Fergus couldn’t catch them either.
“Have this, dear.” Granny’s voice sounded like tires rolling over a gravel road. Her wrist shaking, she placed a clementine-sized seed in Fergus’ palm.
“What is it?” The pit was chestnut brown, but for a red streak running the circumference of the sphere.
“My Gus, one day it will be all you need.” Granny’s eyes closed for the foreverenth time.
Alone in her room, confused by the gift, Fergus placed it in her jewelry box. A seed in repose, dormant for six and thirty years.
Time rushed. Fergus became a mother to Winifred, a wild, loud, and wonderful being that bounced when she talked.
One day at the park, Winifred whisper-screamed a dream to her mama, “I want to catch a bird!”
Fergus laughed at the tickle of breath on her earlobe as Winifred chased the birds pecking through the summergrass. But crows were smart and fast. The flock flitted from one chain-link post to the next. Teased by their harsh caws, the girl collapsed in a heap of grief.
Fergus gathered Winifred in her lap. “Shhh, my sweet.”
“I’ll never catch a bird!” Winifred pounded her leg with a fist.
Fergus dried her daughter’s wet cheeks. “I believe you will.”
Winifred sat quiet, until a spark lit. Her grey-green eyes grew big, spine straightened with an idea. Excitement clipped the heel of each word, as the girl planned to weld together a birdhouse to the moon!
Winifred and her mama studied, and collected materials for weeks. With their headgear in place, they melted and conjoined cast iron bars. They built and climbed until the top of the aviary was as tall as the rooftop.
Winifred pulled her face mask off, dirt smudged her round cheeks.
“It’s missing something.”
“You’re right.” Fergus walked back through the house to her bedroom. She opened the jewelry box, and tangled among gold and silver chains, was the wooden pit with the red streak.
Back in the garden, Winifred skipped around the inside of the structure, kicking dirt clouds into the air.
“What’s that, Mama?”
“Your great-grandmother gave this to me.” Fergus wrapped her daughter’s miniature fingers around the offering. Stepping back, she regarded her daughter’s ornate design.
Winifred dug a hole, and plopped the seed inside.
“It belongs here.” She patted the soil back into place.
“It’s a part of what we made.” Fergus kneeled, hugging the young girl from behind. “Will the mean, old crows be happy here?”
“Yes, Mama.” Winifred picked the dirt from under her fingernails.
The pair cleaned up, filled their bellies, and fell asleep, quite exhausted by the work.
Winifred and Fergus woke to twittering. They met in the kitchen’s grey morning light, barefeet padding along chilled tiles. Winifred lifted the curtain covering the door window.
“Look, Mama!” On her tiptoes, she reached for the metal chain lock. With a swoosh and a clink, the little girl ran outside. Fergus followed.
The enclosure stretched toward the clouds, disappearing into the ether. In the center of the aviary, a scarlet tree arose. It’s trunk, thick and strong, like it had grown there for many years. Crimson branches extended, tipped with sparkling ruby leaves. Silver pomegranate-shaped fruits dropped from the limbs. Birds of all kinds crowded the aviary, squawking and pecking over the harvest. They flitted among the boughs.
Winifred kneeled next to the bole, and held out her forefinger. Crows, finches, bluebirds, robins, and cardinals fell into a line, waiting to perch upon the hand of the girl that built them a home.