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Sapphire Eye

I place Sygna, my late husband’s silver swan, into a box in the attic. She keeps me awake all night with her furious metallic din, an unyielding crash-clang of protest. Next morning I surrender and put her back next to his photo on the desk.

Sygna quietens, shifts her breast toward the picture, beak uplifted. She is squat with smooth, metallic feathers and sapphire eyes―one of which she lost decades ago.

She was a gift my husband received from his grandmother at age seven. She tinkled for him when he released a coin into the slot on her back, clinked for him when he jiggled her, chimed when he joggled her.

Every day he dropped a few coins to feed her, every week he asked if she kept count, every month he took her to the bank, where they scoured her insides and made a deposit into his savings.

Sygna’s beady eye watches as I dust the computer monitor, the drawer handles, the desktop. She clashes like a crashing cymbal when I approach my husband’s photo, her beak poised. When I try to give her a wipe down―she’s dirty from being in the attic―she rocks maniacally, insides fierce-jangling, and directs her empty-eye-socket gaze at me.

Weekends, my husband took Sygna to the beach. She snuggled into his pocket while he sauntered along the two-mile stretch, his hand stroking her feathers, her beak, and the gap where her eye used to be.

She sings for him now: a sharp, discordant, tinny dirge. She ululates while I do the dishes, wails as I mop the kitchen floor, and unleashes a series of shrieks when I pack my husband’s clothes into the donation box.

I stop, palms over the spike-throb in my ears.

Snatching my husband’s ugliest shirt from the pile, an ancient plaid, I grab Sygna and wrap her in the flannel. I shove her into a satchel and drive to the beach.

At the spot where I sprinkled my husband’s ashes, I toss her on the waves.

She does a wibble-wobble-wibble, floating for a moment like a real swan, until water washes over her body and into her slot. Breast, tail, and neck disappear, one bob at a time.

Before the final submerge, I catch the glint of sun on her single, sapphire eye.

Sudha Balagopal’s recent short fiction appears in Smokelong Quarterly, Split Lip Magazine, Pidgeonholes, and Milk Candy Review among other journals. She is the author of a novel, A New Dawn. Her work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best Microfiction, and the Pushcart Prize and is listed in the wigleaf Top 50, 2019.

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