Golden Bird


yellow-45694_960_720// Hannah Alberga

“It’s about Miles.” Mary interrupted the silence.

She was clenching George’s arm so firmly that his leather jacket was left with the imprint of her hand. He opened his mouth for a moment, but then pursed his lips and started whistling to a song lingering in his head. Following their usual path at the art gallery, their first stop was the exhibit of the month.

“What do you think is going on with our son?” She concentrated to maintain a smooth voice.

George separated from his wife to look at a painting of children. The kids were gathered into two groups and painted faceless, but the scene was still very clear. A group of hockey players were triumphantly covered in ice with white debris glistening on their uniforms. The second group was figure skating on a separate rink, some were balancing on one leg, and others were skillfully twirling. One child was walking between the two rinks. George imagined the kid looking with uncertainty at the hockey players, and then at the figure skaters, but he couldn’t see the child’s face.

Mary stood behind George and admired the figure skaters. But when he turned around she focused on the painting beside it. She knew what he was going to say.

“See there are the hockey players, and the figure skaters, and then there’s that kid.” He pointed to the painting.

“You’re talking nonsense. And keep it down, we’re in the gallery,” Mary hushed.

George separated his lips to justify the remark, but then exhaled a single, deep chuckle instead. He walked across the room to a grey sculpture of a ballerina poised in ‘first position.’

“I remember my very first ballet recital.” Mary tried to straighten her hunched shoulders.

George squatted so that he was at eye level with the ballerina’s feet, which were pointed outward. He looked at his wife, who was examining her hands and pulled out a nail file from her purse. He was still thinking about the first painting—the child standing between the two rinks, eyes lingering on the figure skaters. Then he had an idea. Angling his own feet out and raising his hands, he replicated the ballerina’s position. His wife finished filing her nails and looked up.

“What are you doing,” she shrieked.

“We’re in the gallery, don’t raise your voice.”

“George!”

“Is my ballet bothering you?” He asked.

“Because you act like this, you make Miles think it’s okay…” She stopped, unsure of how to finish the sentence.

“You’re right dear, my open mind is like a dagger.” He violently threw up his hands as if releasing a blast of confetti in the air. “I should say: son, you will be a business man, wear a suit, marry your high school sweetheart, and have two to three kids.”

“That’s what you did!”

“Right.”

A security guard standing in the corner noticed the animated discussion. He started walking in their direction, but then saw the clock on the wall indicated it was his coffee break and exited the room.

Now, George was slowly circling the sculpture with arms held behind his back, straight posture, and toes pointed. Mary pretended to be looking at a painting of a fruit bowl while watching George in her peripheral vision. He began to twirl and sashay around the ballerina. Performing a grand jeté, he gained height and almost hit the ceiling. She turned around.

“George. Stop it or I’m leaving!”

Mary clenched her teeth so tight that George could hear them grind together like a knife scratching a ceramic plate. She shoved her arms into her sheepskin coat at an urgent pace and accidentally placed one into the hood. Then buttoned it up, wrapped a purple silk scarf around her neck in a single swift motion, and tied it in a very tight knot. But she didn’t leave.

As Mary was getting dressed in her coat, George walked to the next room. The ceiling was a skylight, a bright contrast to the pot lights at the last display. Paper birds of all different colours hung from thin silk threads attached to the ceiling. Some were maroon; others were silver, or copper. Mary followed him and sat down on a wooden bench.

“I’m serious. No more joking around. We need to talk about Miles.”

George looked up and focused on a golden bird staggered lower than all the others. He could reach it. After quickly checking if any security guards were in sight, he softly stroked the bird’s head.

“It’s all up in the air. Look, every one is different and it’s beautiful. The birds didn’t choose to fly and they didn’t choose their colours either, someone else did.”

He approached his wife, more serious now, the most he had been all day.

“Mary, he’s our son.”

He gazed up at the golden bird, leaned in close to his wife, retrieved the nail file from her open purse, and cut him free.

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