As the teen coach and editor of Teen Scene for the newspaper, Cynthia Brian has had the opportunity to work with talented teens with attitude and opinions. She shares selected published works. To read numerous articles shepherded by Cynthia, visit www.BTSYA.com
This is a creative writing piece by one of her teen writers of Teen Scene.
by Morgan Hunter
She used to know all the Birds of Paradise by name, each so different and unique. But the English names, not the Latin ones, the ones so much easier to grasp and hold on to. (King of Saxony, Wilson’s, Superb, Goldie’s) “I’ll see you for real someday,” is the promise she makes to their black ink eyes. (Raggiana, Twelve-Wired, Emperor)
When she grows up they lie forgotten, the texture of their feathers bound in paper lost to her.
When she grows up he hides in glass bottles.
And breaks them.
“The first stage is denial,” her father murmurs as she crinkles the metal can and misses the shot into the trash can, stares at it blankly, and sways past. It’s the last can in her first six-pack of the day, and the trudge to the fridge for another can is a long one when her feet don’t seem to follow orders. Her mother fidgets on the loveseat, slender, soft hands shaking around a cup of tea. “I’m not in denial,” she snarls at the pair of them. “I’m fucking imperfect. How else do you want me to be?” “Please dear,” her mother’s voice wavers just as her hands do. “Can we please just talk this out over some tea?” One of the last things she remembers is laughing in her mother’s face. Her memory of the rest of the night is a spotty, booze-induced blur, punctuated by her father’s voice growing louder like thunder moving through the tiny apartment she rents, her own voice crackling like lightning, her mother’s tears falling like quiet rain. When she wakes the next day, she washes down her hangover with coffee and rum. She runs her fingers over the tear marks left on her shabby carpet, now devoid of all warmth and wishes she could take it all back.
She picks up a case of cheap beer the next day, and decides to be daring and pick up some peas to put in the instant noodles that monopolize her pantry. She wheels past two kids just a few years younger than herself, eyeing the dino nuggets and wearing pajamas. College students. She rolls her eyes. “Poor things,” she overhears one say. “God what a nasty situation. And they’re so beautiful, too. Lovely plumage.” She glances at them over a package bearing the face of the Jolly Green Giant, pausing to listen. “It’s so sad to think,” the other says before making his selection of the pot pies, “that soon there won’t be anything left for them. No more trees to dance in. Then no more food to eat. Then no more Birds of Paradise. Then they’ll be like everything else we destroy, just like the Dodo or the Passenger Pigeon or the Great Auk. Just birds of a lost paradise.”
She freezes, her hand halfway to a bag of mixed vegetables. The levees behind her eyes, strained to bursting with frustration and self-depreciation bust open wide and violently, and suddenly she is sobbing in front of the frozen pea selection.
She leaves without buying the beer.
The first thing she does when she can feel her face again is pick up the phone.
“Hey mom?” It’s obvious her voice is not the one her mother expected. “Can I take you up on that cup of tea?”
It’s many weeks later that she has the courage to go to her first meeting. Her mother sits beside her, clutching her hand with fingers that don’t falter. As she ascends the stage, she seeks the eyes of her parents, burning with pride and encouragement. As she settles in front of the microphone, she takes a breath to steady herself. This is it.
“Hi. My name is Maggie Cook, and up until three weeks ago, I was an alcoholic.”
A flutter of wings as the birds return to Paradise.
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