He reached for his cup of water, but knocked it over instead.
"Darn it," he muttered.
The cat lifted her head and glanced at him. He pushed her off his stomach and sat up. He tried his best to swallow down the dryness in his throat but failed.
Carle got up slowly from the bed, his hip aching from age. He made the long walk to the kitchen, poured a new glass of water, and stared out the window at a starless night. His lips grew more parched with each minute but he did not drink the water. Instead, his eyes turned to the fridge, where his grandson's drawing hung on the door.
He walked over and examined the drawing of a grey bird crashing into the earth.
"Grandpa, I made you a drawing in class today. It's based on this time I saw a bird hit Daddy's windshield," Joey said with a smile. He had folded the picture as if preparing for a big unveiling.
Carle's son, James, laughed. "That time... Kids... The bird hit my windshield yesterday afternoon."
Carle smiled at both of them. "You can live a lifetime in a moment," he said, grabbing at Joey's nose.
Joey giggled as he dodged his grandfather's hand. Carle grew tired and settled back in his chair.
"Now, how about we take a look at your masterpiece."
"Okay," Joey said. He handed the folded paper to his grandfather, bouncing with excitement as Carle opened it.
Carle gasped. His eyes welled up. He put down the drawing and excused himself.
He didn't look back at Joey or James's faces. He knew better.
As a child in Germany, Carle was surrounded by war films and political debates at the dinner table. His mother wouldn't let him play outside. When word got out about a bomber plane called the Silver bird, she clucked and said to his father, "This is why we aren't safe. They've even turned birds into monsters."
His father had gotten up from the dinner table and shoved her from her seat.
"Do not forget who I work for, or else you'll have more to fear than birds."
That was the last time he saw his father. His father was called away to work and, in the middle of the night, his mother took him and a purse full of money into the dark roads.
As they boarded a train, she whispered, "Watch for birds, my love. They are everywhere."
Carle took the drawing down from the fridge and held it in his shaking hands. Tears ran down his face. He picked up the phone and called his son.
"I'm sorry I woke you."
"Dad? Is everything okay? Is it your heart?"
"Oh no, no. Just tell Joey I loved the drawing. It reminds me of when a bird saved my life."
There was a long pause on the phone.
"Well, and finish that with the fact that I'm a silly old man," he chuckled. "Sweet dreams, my love. Sweet dreams."
Kristina England resides in Worcester, MA. Her poetry is published or forthcoming in Gargoyle, Haggard and Halloo, Nib Magazine, Poetry Breakfast, Crack the Spine, Extract(s), The Story Shack and other journals. Her first collection of short stories will be published in the 2014 Poet's Haven Author Series. For more on her writing, visit http://kristinaengland.blogspot.com/.
Bay Laurel / Volume 3, Issue 1 / Spring 2014