In the purple and gray morning, I release the small leather ball from my
slingshot into the brisk breeze above my head. Fine hairs waft around my eyelashes as I watch it climb to almost disappear from view, trailing its cargo of sewn-on feathers and tiny little bell.
A bullet of black and white and brown streaks from the sky above and grabs the ball, makes a wide circle and settles, fluffed and agitated, on my wrist. I stroke the feathers beneath her dark amber eye with the knuckle of my index finger, crooning words of praise and beauty. I bend my face to the crown of her head and inhale her wild, dusty smell. She is fierce, she is hungry, she is Peregrine, and she is mine.

On these exercise mornings I think about how, long ago, I came across her path and saved her life. She came into
Wind Over Wings damaged and emaciated, wounded by some collision or perhaps a projectile, a carelessly thrown rock. I doubt that, she is too fast … perhaps in pursuit of a smaller bird, she did not see the approaching car? I'll never know. On the long days of healing, her wing splinted and her feathers dirty with her own filth, I would peer into her eyes and will her to speak. Tell me, tell me what it was.
As she mended and we began our rehabilitation work together, a trust grew that has us in its tethers now, bound to one another inextricably. She cannot be released to the wild; this would surely be a death sentence, as she is hobbled on the one side and too accustomed to people to keep herself safe from them and their ignorant impulses. Besides, I could not bear to let a day pass without the guidance of her bird wisdom. She is self-reliant, noble, wild at heart, unapologetic. She is everything that I would like to be.

I prepare the lure for another flight, reflecting upon the illness that courses through my own bloodstream, threatening to consume my body from the inside out. Two treatments left and then maybe a clean bill of health? There’s no way of knowing. I cling to the hope that these outings of fresh air and exercise will imbue my body with just enough positivity to tip the scales in my favor. Maybe if I hang my soul from the talons of this little beast, she can carry my hopes towards the heavens and release them, there to diffuse and to shower life down upon me.

I chuckle at my sad attempts to bring poetic meaning to this ritual, the morning flight-runs that keep my bird strong and allow me to breathe the cold, new air. Still, perhaps there is just a little magic in this bond and in these moments. Enough to keep me happy, surely, and perhaps enough to heal me.

The target prepared and my falcon circling above my head, I pull the band of my slingshot back once more, aiming for the rising sun. I stretch the band to its limit, holding the ball in its leather cup as I glance at the bird, climbing in her anticipation. Pulling the band just a bit further I release, and watch as she pursues her quarry. Ah, beautiful, beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful bird, my mind whispers.

The light in the east fills out the horizon just as she dives, a feathered arrow of hope, into the blue and silent sunrise.

In this
Flash Fiction Friday, the task was to write a story beginning with "In the purple and gray morning..."


Terri said...

This is beautiful - calming and poetic. You're right: the same opening line and two very, very different stories!

Debby said...

This is a beautiful story. I have to go along in the same vein as terri - everyone takes the same opening line, and no story is ever the same. It's amazing in how many directions the stories go.

Juliabohemian said...

yes, but can you train her to fetch bottles of budweiser from sidewalk cafes?

sweet trini said...

this is simply beautiful.
walk good.

James said...

I hope you didn't chuckle when you wrote this:

"Maybe if I hang my soul from the talons of this little beast, she can carry my hopes towards the heavens and release them, there to diffuse and to shower life down upon me."

Because that's some good stuff.

justacoolcat said...

Nice work.

JJ said...

I have about a hundred things to say, so I'll sum them up:

1) Beautiful.

2) I have a thing for birds of prey. There's a red tail falcon that hunts along my way to work and I look for him every day.

3) I had a friend whose parents made him give up his falcon, literally made him release it into the "wild" which was a park outside Fairfax. For years after, whenever he would go to the park, the falcon would dive bomb him. It broke his heart so much to be without that bird that he just stood there and took it.

4) Do you really have one?

GirlGoyle said...

That is wonderful. There is no better symbol to absolute freedom than that of a bird of prey. My family came across a wounded eagle many years ago but we eventually let it back in the wild. It was a great experience to be so close to something like that.

J said...

I was never interested in birds until we had some folks from the world bird sanctuary come do presentations at the Aquarium, and getting to see birds of prey up close made me irresistibly interested. You convey your own feelings well here.