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Bird Song

By Shellie Zacharia

In her next life, Kelly would be a rock star. She would play bass guitar and people would love her and cry when she walked off stage.

This she told her mother on the telephone. Her mother said, “Bass guitar. Why not lead? Stop letting other people lead you,” and Kelly knew her mother would never be satisfied. She was just happy her mother didn’t say, “Next life? Where did you get that idea?” It meant maybe her mother was coming to an understanding of Kelly. Or it meant her mother was drinking, too busy pouring fingers, and hadn’t heard Kelly’s first words.

Sunk by her mother’s reaction, she called her friend Janelle and repeated her rock-star dream. This time she said, “I will sing like a newborn bird and play slap-bass style and people will wonder how I am so confident. They will love that I’m amazing and steady at the same time.”

Janelle was silent a moment and then asked, “What does a newborn bird sound like?” and so Kelly had to think.

“Something scratchy, sort of high and irritatingly innocent. Haunting.”

“Haunting?” Janelle asked.

“Yes. Like this,” and Kelly sang in what she thought was her sultry rock star voice.

“That’s pretty cool,” Janelle said. She was in the middle of helping her son build a science-class diorama. “Life on Mars,” Janelle said. “Red and dusty.”

“Is it really?” Kelly asked. “Or is it just what they want us to believe.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes. I’ll call you tomorrow,” Kelly said and hung up with a sigh. It was hard to be friends with mothers. The priority shift was too much.

She tried one more time to share her vision. She figured, third time was a charm. She tried to figure out what that meant. A charm. Something charming? Magical? A charm like a pendant, a small shoe, or a heart dangling from a bracelet: silver-plated so that with sweat, with summer heat, it turned greenish.

Kelly dialed. The phone rang. Rang and rang and rang. His answering machine did not go off. Seven rings. Eight. She hung up. “Damn it.”

She didn’t get to say, “I will be beautiful and people will understand that I hold the songs together. I’m the bassist. I keep everyone in line.”

Michael didn’t get to say, “You already are beautiful.”

 

Shellie Zacharia's work has appeared in a number of print and online journals, including Swivel, Washington Square, Dos Passos Review, Slow Trains, Vestal Review, and Pindeldyboz.

 

Photo "Bass Effects 2" courtesy of Matt Williams, Birmingham, Great Britain.

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