There are two bald eagles, sitting on a log. One is looking over his shoulder; the other has completely lost his head. I’m eight months pregnant. I want to stick my fingers through the chain-link, soothe down the feathers of the headless bird, “it’s ok sweetheart,” I’ll sing, “Do you remember where you last saw your head?” Tony is clicking behind me, “Is that how they sleep?” he asks out loud to himself, snapping photo after photo of all the raptors in the center. He’s not talking to me, he’s pondering, and he’s practicing with his new camera, practicing taking pictures of wildlife because there’s no telling what kind of creature I’m carrying. Tony’s thinking she’ll be hairy and bouncing, just like him. “Fly birds. Fly!” he calls out, because he needs to be versed in capturing motion. What can I say? There was a limited choice in mates that season. Of course I hope she’ll be more like me. I turn around. I want to see the vultures. I step down hard on a branch crack, crack, cracking it. The headless eagle’s neck feathers ruffle, “It’s ok sweetheart,” I say, “Just the sound of the house settling.”
Two year later a red-tailed hawk hops around the clinic parking lot. Cocks its head in my direction. It’s a beautiful bird. I’m safe. I’m in a car. I’m ok right now. I’m ok enough right now to be handling heavy machinery. But the bird, the hawk, is so big, is so heavy. It should be in the sky. I can’t handle it hopping on the top of a bench, and eyeing the opening of a trash can, like how can it get inside? The doctor said…and later, after dinner, when I’m giving Dani a bath, piling bubbles on her head, she farts into the water and cries. “It’s ok sweetheart,” I say, “Better out than in.” She’ll talk when she’s ready, when she has something to say. “Hey baby, I want to show you something,” but as I’m taking off my sweater, a rubber ducky unicorn catches me in the jaw. Dani laughs, loses her grip, hits her head on the back of the tub and slips into the water. I pick her up, towel her off tuck her in, tuck in her father on the couch again, snoring, remote in his hand, and I pick up all the half naked dolls, all the ground up Cheerios, fix the toilet that keeps running, and then in the kitchen, scrubbing off the dishes, night air swirls over my hands. In between mice, the barred owl asks, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” so loud I have to slam the window shut, my wings itching and itching beneath my bra strap.
Caroljean Gavin’s work is forthcoming in Best Small Fictions 2021 and Milk Candy Review, and has appeared in places such as Barrelhouse, Bending Genres, and Pithead Chapel. She’s the editor of What I Thought of Ain’t Funny, an anthology of short fiction based on the jokes of Mitch Hedberg, published by Malarkey Books. She’s on Twitter @caroljeangavin.