Bud Smith
Birthday!

 

I found an eagle egg, big as a suitcase, lying on the lawn. .

I thought it was fake, funny, you know—a gag. I propped it up on the table next to the fridge. That night, after too much wine, I wrote ‘Happy Birthday!’ on the egg with purple lipstick. 

 

*      *      *

 

A week later, the table collapsed. The egg, now quadrupled in size, grew while no one looked. My ‘Happy Birthday!’ scrawl had become distorted. 

The egg shook. I got it out the front door, barely, and rolled it into the truck bed, covering it with a blanket. 

North I drove.

 

*      *      *

 

At their table, Dad was all denim, as always. Mom had new lines on her face, a lifetime of grimacing.

“How’s work?” Dad asked. 

“There was a downsize,” I said.

“Lost your job?”

“It’s okay though, I’ve been real busy.”

“Job search?”

“Wow, no, not exactly.”

He set his fork down, stared through me.

“See, I found an egg,” I said in defense, “I’ve been taking care of it. Boy does it ever take up a ton of my time.”

“Pass the butter,” Mom said. Dad slugged back his milk.

Their dalmatian whined at my feet. I accidentally dropped a handful of raw broccoli.

 

*      *      *

 

After apple pie, there was a small explosion.

My truck tires had burst. The axles given out. Visible on the shell in the truck bed, was only the word ‘Birthday!’ 

“Nice egg,” dad said. “That was a good truck.”

“Junk now,” mom said.

 

*      *      *

 

I drove them to the train station in the rain. They were afraid of the sky, and would not—I thought—under any circumstance, fly.

Alone again in their house, I unthawed every steak from the chest freezer, left them on the counter, consumed none.

 

*      *      *

 

The egg split apart near dawn.

I woke in the hammock, the racket of a massive beak bursting through shell. Horrified, I watched the bird wiggle free, chirping, blindly.

The sun came up.

 

*      *      *

 

Birthday was full-feathered, even as a chick. Her eyes changed from milk to clear all-seeing jade in only a day. I fed her canisters of oatmeal, fish food, rice. Her wings, already spreading thirty five-feet, wouldn’t work yet, but she flapped them in the dust underneath the clothesline, sending the bed sheets sailing. I regretted the wasted steaks.

I came home with a hog, as a gift. But Birthday was halfway through consuming the dalmatian, his legs hung from the eagle’s beak. She threw her head back, sucked the rest of the dog down.

The following day, she began to fly.

 

*      *      *

 

A great shadow circled above the farm. Children walking through the rye shrunk in fear. Garbage cans were pulled into the heavens, emptied aluminum drums crashed down, two miles away. Every stray animal, injured or slow, vanished.

I was awoken by shrieking in the moonlight.

She was perched on the barn. I walked outside, and said, “Birthday, do you remember me? I am your mother.”

Her long wing reached down and I took hold of a feather. Suddenly we were ascending, the clouds nearing, the dark fields below—a mile and then another mile below, I took a deep breath and the cool air was remarkably thin. Soaring.

“Where to?”

My eagle cooed.

 

*      *      *

 

At first light, we flew over the snow-capped mountains. At lunch, we followed the twisted rivers until they broke over sharp falls. By dinner, the frantic mess of the city spilling below. I noticed a train pulling into the station, and realized I’d forgotten my parents at the station.

“We’ve got to land.”

Birthday responded, gliding towards the waiting platform. We came in hot, her talons caught the metal railing. We swung to an abrupt stop, the train conductor yanked wildly on the brake.

Over the PA, he yelled, “Dragon!”

My father opened his window, “Jane! What are you doing?”

“I’m here to pick you up.”

“Oh god,” Mom said in disgust, “let me guess, the contents of your beloved egg?”

I opened my mouth to speak, but before I could, Birthday lunged against the train and pulled Mom out, crunching down on her head.

 

*      *      *

 

And so we flew. Onward and onward. I washed Birthday off with a hose in a motel parking lot outside Cheyenne, but when I heard police sirens, I knew we had to leave. We slept on a higher cliff, overlooking an eternity of rocky debris. She’d rip mountain goats from the peaks, and I cooked them at our fire, saying, “guess I’m starving enough to no longer be a vegetarian.”

I had sadness. I had elation. I felt a rush, a warmth, a fear, a danger. Birthday wrapped me in her wings and we slept, nestled at the edge of a cave. A bear moaning down in the valley sounded suspiciously like our breakfast.

 

*      *      *

 

I called dad from a ski slope pay phone.

“Where are you, girl?”

“Touch-downed out of the clouds, to tell you, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?!”

“You’re drunk, I can tell.”

“Stay where you are! I’m on my way.”

“It’s 6000 miles,” I said. “Didn’t say which direction.”

The line went dead.

 

*      *      *

 

My new life at the top of the world. My new life swinging into tropical jungles. My new life on Birthday’s back, talons extended, extracting sleeping lions from swaying grass.

In the tallest tree, we made our nest. The snow was close. The gray sky was either chalk or ash. I wrapped myself in furs, and carried a rhino tusk. My hair was one tangled dreadlock that I fantasized about shaving down to the scalp. I longed for paperback books, and music other than Birthday’s shrieks.

 

*      *      *

 

When the helicopter came across the forest, it was obvious, yet I said, wishfully, “They’re not coming for us.”

“Jane!” my father shouted, on the bullhorn. I waved him off. “Give up!” he responded. I flipped him off.

The nose of the whirly bird dipped. Birthday beat her wings up, screaming.

A sidewinder missile soared towards us. For three seconds, I envisioned Hell.

I knew we were all in far greater trouble, when Birthday swallowed the missile with no ill effects.

We flew towards the helicopter. Shrieking.

 
 



____________________

 
 

Bud Smith lives in New York City, works heavy construction in New Jersey and has nothing to do with Connecticut. His new novel is called F-250. His stories and poems have appeared recently at SmokelongDecomPTheNewerYork, and Metazen. He wrote this bio. budsmithwrites.com