You stuff chunks of a frozen bird into your pockets. Outside, the world is spinning. A homeless man asks you for some change, so you hand him a headless bird. He holds it like a broken child. With the bird parts stuffed into your pockets, it almost feels like flying. You walk past a restaurant and see a man in a window eating a small bird, feathers and all. You walk into a store to buy a pack of gum, and you hand over three little bird heads with the beaks still attached. The clerk sweeps them up like change. He tells you that the summer is waiting for you.
You step outside onto a cold island. Birds wash up at your feet. You want to save as many as you can, but your pockets are already bogged down with frozen bird parts. You sit on a bench, and you try to piece together a bird from memory. Like the blind, you go by feel, until the bird takes shape in your hand. You sew the bird together with purple yarn. You start a fire in a trashcan to warm the bird.
The bird twitches in your hands. You feel the bones like toothpicks. It squawks to life, just a little at first, but soon it reaches an earsplitting pitch. It flaps its wings hysterically and pecks at your wrist until it draws blood. You throw the bird as hard as you can and lick the blood from your wrist. The bird bounces a few times and flaps until it gets its bearings and shoots off into the sky.
Warm from the fire, you lie down on the grass. You can feel other bird parts come to life in your pockets. You can see them move around under your clothes. The bird in the sky shoots off toward the moon. It flies so fast its wings melt as it leaves the atmosphere. It flies past the ice on Europa. Soon it will fly past the Sun. Soon it is no more than the memory of a broken bird you once kept in your pocket as you walked the streets of a small cold planet, littered with bones.
Jamie Cooper is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of a 2020 Oregon Literary Fellowship. His work has appeared in Construction, Vestal Review, Lost Balloon, TYPO, The Colorado Review, and elsewhere. He teaches English and writes about the NBA for Uproxx Sports. He lives in Portland, OR.
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