Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 34
Autumnal Equinox, 2019

New Works

Nicholas Siegel

I Am Made of Bones

First, you sit by the window sill, and you wait. The waiting is the hard part, because you never know how long it will take. Sometimes it's minutes. Sometimes it's hours. But you wait because it's the right thing to do. You like it. You need it as much as they do.
It doesn't take long before a bird shows up, fluttering down from the sky—a rough applause of black. It's a grackle.
He lands on the window sill, the opening between your world and theirs, absorbing the light in his dark feathers.
"How can I help you, little bird?" you say, extending your hands palm up at an angle like you're saying the Our Father at mass. You do this to show him it's safe. To show him he can nestle up against you if he wants.
"You have the perfect voice," he says. You thank him and ask again, what it is he needs help with. "Your eyes," he says, "are like diamonds."
You brush at him, and he flies off. Sometimes this happens. Sometimes they just want to flirt.
It takes thirty minutes for the next bird to come. This time, it's a sparrow.
"My friends and I have been planning midnight raids to get into the trash outside your house," he says. "Your garbage is torn open each night by raccoons, but there's a cat that lives in the alley and we see him watching. It's not safe."
"I scatter seed and have feeders in my backyard," you say, stroking the sparrow's wing. "There's no need for you to get into my trash. Leftover pizza isn't good for birds, anyway." He tilts his head. He knows you're right, but he's not happy.
"Thank you for your kindness," he says and flies off.
You speak next to a bluejay who suffers from depression. Then, a mockingbird with obsessive compulsive disorder. You've never met a cardinal in an abusive relationship, but you suppose there's a first time for everything. And as a stark contrast, she's followed by a goldfinch with tricky codependency issues. You're exhausted from the day's work, and as the sun sets behind the trees, you are greeted by your final patient.
He's the first horned owl that has ever come to the window. You usually get the smaller birds. Word, or chirp, of your services must be spreading. You feel warm. You're making a name for yourself.
"Hello, owl," you say. "What brings you to my window?"
His eyes are like miniature moons reflecting your own eyes back. He doesn't blink. "I am afraid to die," he says. You reach out to stroke him, and he pulls away, so you rest your arms at your sides.
"You're part of nature, like I am," you say. "We all die. Don't be afraid."
He is silent.
"How many mice do you eat each day?" you say.
"I prefer voles."
"When you catch these things, they die. You are putting an end to their story on Earth." You're winging it. You can't tell if he's buying it. Owls, it turns out, are difficult to read.
"I cough up the bones, and it reminds me that I'm filled with bones. I am made of bones. Something will eat me someday."
"That's what happens, little bird." He is not a little bird.
He crouches, extends his wings, and ascends into the air. You hear the flapping above your window, and then he is going back in the direction he came from, growing smaller in the sky against the trees. You think you see him perch at the top of a pine in the distance, but it could be a trick of the light.
Not all of your patients are satisfied. You think, for a moment, that your message will sink in, but who are you kidding? Some birds are too smart for their own good.

Nicholas Siegel is a writer from Louisville, KY who holds his MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. His work has been published in Bourbon Penn, Jersey Devil Press and Palooka, among other places. He is a lover of bourbon, coffee, music, and cats.