fiction

dead things

photograph by Ashley Lily Scarlett

A wave dumped a dead jellyfish on the sand beside her, where she was building a planetary alignment of starfishes. She poked the jellyfish with her shovel, and because it reminded her of her cat that died a few months ago, she dug a grave for it. When she was done, she stood over it for a while.

The hair on her arms began to rise. The summer storm her mother promised had landed. She scooped up her dolls and shovel and ran back to the house. She paused just inside the front door, tilted her head and listened to the onslaught that drowned out all other sounds.

Is that you, Maya? her mother’s voice drifted from a room. Come here.

Maya left her toys in a crate by the door. When she entered their bedroom, her eyes flew to the eagle perched on top of an antique closet. The bird flexed its wings and screeched at her. It was from Rafael’s last trip overseas, intended as a bribe for his lover’s daughter. But the bird had taken an instant dislike to her. Maya hated it, how it shat all over the antique. Her mother named it Mahatma.

Her mother lay in bed with Rafael, her hair tangled on a pillow like seaweed. She patted the space on the edge of the mattress. Closer, Maya, we have a game for you. Maya approached them, keeping a wary eye on the bird.

Outside the bedroom’s open window, the trees shook as the storm rushed in.

Her mother began her instruction. You must learn to call everything by its proper name: breasts, vagina, penis. She took Maya’s hand and moved it gently over her breast, the hair between her thighs, then over his body. Penis, Maya repeated, as her mother helped her unroll what looked like rubber skin over it. She heard him inhale sharply. In her hand he felt hard as stone, she wondered if it hurt him. When her mother removed her guiding hand, Maya’s fell away too. She slid her hand behind her and carefully wiped the stickiness against the back of her dress.

As Maya stood there, unsure how the game ended, the eagle, startled by a crack of thunder, shrieked and hurtled itself towards the window, intent on freedom or suicide, and was saved from both by the rope tied around its leg.

Her mother shouted for it to shut up and Rafael threw a pillow, which landed on top of the closet. The eagle slashed at it with its beak. There was a shower of feathers. Maya ran around the room to catch what she pretended was snow.

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18 thoughts on “dead things

  1. Such a grotesque way to treat a little girl. She’s not ready for that and she doesn’t understand really. Seems like the storm saved, what could have been an even worse situation along with the frightened eagle. Powerful piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really like the eagle and how the story kind of winds around it. I like the feathers and the disgusting yet whimsical way they would be stuck to her hands. I like its name and how it’s tied to the antique that it shits all over. You don’t often think of an eagle shitting. All the details of the story are original. It’s a story that sticks with you. I’d like to know more about the mother. You would think they’d release the eagle since no one likes it. But the mother is probably the type just to keep it around to spite it. But then the mother is very unusual, isn’t she, to use her daughter like she does. The story is like a bullet that goes in small and then leaves a big exit wound.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. thefeatheredsleep says:

    Feathers falling all over. So many winning images here. I love how you can inhabit an image and entice the reader closer to your work by your natural ability to flesh out the tiniest observation. THAT is talent.

    Liked by 1 person

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