Wheeler & the Warbler: Part 1

Hello! The following is a short story I have worked tirelessly over the past few months. I will be posting this in fragments to avoid it becoming too long a post. This is also my submission for the Young Emerging Authors Fellowship from the Telling Room, very exciting opportunities are ahead. Thank you for reading 🙂 

 

          I couldn’t sleep a wink, not with that damn bird hollering outside my window. I’ll tell you I tried, I really did. He was a black-throated grey warbler by the looks of it, the way his head was cloaked in black like Hades. A pair of delicate birch white bars painted and marred his wings; he had to be a black throated grey warbler. Though, I was no bird expert, no ornithologist. Last Thursday after anatomy I found myself in my school’s library. Truthfully, four years in the crumbling red brick building and I’d never stepped foot in that place. It was a new feeling under my shoes and their soles, partly because it was some foreign and strange land and partly because the floor had slightly sunken into the earth. I didn’t mind the library, it had an odd and unfamiliar stillness. I didn’t hear anything in my head for once. No ticking, no tockings, no zeep zeep zeeps. I didn’t hear my parent’s shouts, ricocheting off our narrow hallways, the force of a .308 caliber bullet. Maybe it was all those books, acting like a sound-barrier of sorts. I couldn’t hear my father’s straining voice and red face, telling me I was not a man, but a boy. Maybe he was right. I made a mental note to pick up a book on hunting and fishing.

 

          The walls were lined with yellowed pages along with a lingering perfume of asbestos. The library showed the outside world it’s toothy grin, a mouth full of books, a crooked smile. Most of the paperbacks were scattered and knew no order; it took me close to eleven whole minutes just to find the World Encyclopedia of Birds. It’s blue spine stood out to me in spite of the surrounding chaos, almost as if it had offered out it’s lanky cobalt arms and tapped my shoulder. The spine was twisted and bent, the edges looked like they’d been gnawed off- scoliosis like. The blue book of birds sat idle on my bedside table, peeking out and watching from under a collage of used tissues, a half filled orange prescription bottle and a disheveled stack of scribbled flash cards. I never did end up finding that other book though. Zeep zeep zeep zeep.

 

            Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday night, now Sunday night. That makes five. I just laid there in the dark for a moment, my sheets consumed me. Soon my bare and calloused feet hit the coolness of the wooden floor. My legs brought me over to my window, outside the black-throated grey warbler sang. The song sent a nervous tap down my spine and made me wobbly in the knees. A bead of sweat dribbled a path down my forehead and crashed into the floor. He made me feel uneasy like. Cymbals in my ears and music to the warbler. The bags under my eyes drooped heavily, reflecting colors of lilac and grey. Same color grey as that damned bird. It made me hate myself, my own skin. If I could, I’d jump out of it, shedding my skin like one of those snakes you see in National Geographic. My freckles yawned. I brought my sleepy fingers to the window pane and jerked my arms upwards towards the ceiling. The October air stung at my dull skin and clawed into my throat. “Whaddya want?” I yelled at the bird. Then there was a minute of silence, of nothing. Then at once he responded back, sanguine as usual.

 

          Zeep zeedle zeep zeep. The moon held itself up in the night sky, depending on its own strength, light speckled and dappled the warblers body. “Can’t ya let me get some sleep?” By this point my voice had dulled down to a whisper. I snapped my neck to the left and looked over at my alarm clock, red dogmatic letters threw themselves onto the ground; 2:38 a.m.. The bright red melted into the mucky darkness surrounding the warbler and I. There was no noise, except one. Zeeep. The warbler offered me a confused look. He repositioned himself on the tree branch, a fidgety fellow, inching closer to the open window. He had small yellow patches hugging his eyes and shaky twig like legs. The presence of the warbler made me grow anxious; it acted as a yoke, balancing a tremendous and crushing weight atop my skeleton. I felt like I would fall at any moment. I couldn’t tell you why.

 

 

          The sun stretched and yawned filling my bedroom with the sound of cracking joints, painting the morning skies the color of nicotine stained fingers and teeth. I found myself on the floor; my window remained open. The bird was gone, at least now he was. He was sure to return by sunset; I knew it. Inevitability was not kind. I lifted myself off the oak floor panels and to my feet. My under eyes were bruised fuchsia, a permanent stamp of fatigue. Maybe if I hadn’t been awake at 2 a.m talking to a god damned bird, they would be a more pleasant color. Fleshy pink or healthy peach. My parents were still asleep, not arguing or exchanging violent phrases, but sleeping. I crept down the stairs, making sure not to wake them with the sound of moaning floorboards and my socked feet. The normal breakfast, stale toast, a blue chalky pill and black coffee, settled heavily in the bottom of my stomach, as if I had swallowed rocks and hornets– they stung.

 

          I found contentment in the almost silence of my morning walk to school. All that could be heard was my leather dress shoes striking hard on the pavement. These walks gave me time to think, time to meld my mind around happenings that engulfed me, happenings that swallowed me whole. Though this morning I waded through the thick exhausting air, I was a corpse. My skin the color grey, much like a storm cloud or lead. I hated myself. There was no longer sensation in my finger tips and my lungs were constricted tightly by a plethora of elastic bands. In English class, Mrs. Cooper would be sure to point out in front of my peers that I looked just terrible and send me to the nurse. With sudden might silence shattered, sending shards of glass deep into my forehead and frontal lobe, sharp force trauma. Zeedle zeep zeedle.

 

          It was that damn bird again. The warbler sat comfortably with ease, nestled in the branches of a spindly oak tree. I could feel his charcoal eyes beaming deep into my collarbones. Zeep. My penny loafers cemented to the tar beneath me, as if I had stepped on a festering wad of chewing gum. I spoke again to the bird. “Whaddya want?” If someone happened to stroll by they’d surely call me crazy, shouting at a tiny bird. To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to know what the hell that warbler wanted. I just needed to get to school and through the day. Spin on my heels, turn around, get back under my covers and get some sleep, even.

“I just wanted to see you, that’s all,” said the warbler, his beak moving unassumingly, up and down, nine meager twitches. I tried to ignore the warbler, I really did. Just the sight of him knotted up my stomach, swelling my insides until they resembled bunches of black carnival balloons. Zeep zeep zeeble.

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