Fiction in a minute: Starling

She was already late to work for a job she did not love. Stress thrummed in her head like smoke-colored static, focusing her attention inward. The static muted the pleasures of her favorite song on the radio, of the plop of raindrops on the windshield, of the friction of tires spinning against the road. With every half-breath she felt the abstract fear of not measuring up to some vacillating standard. Of being an imposter. Of not making her time on this earth matter. She was afraid to fill her lungs for then she would take more air than she deserved.

A yellow-beaked starling swooped in front of the windshield of her car, its unfurled wing tip tracing a faint line of raindrops only to be quickly eradicated by the slap-ching of the windshield wipers. The static in her head faded as she hit the brakes, surprised, protective of the bird, afraid it would hit its head against the tempered glass.

The bird, though, did not need her protection. With conscious precision, it pumped its iridescent black wings and floated up, then away, out of her vision.

She glanced at the automobiles on either side of her, seeking out another driver in order to acknowledge the beauty of that flight. Her own eyes and mind seemed untrustworthy now. Did it really happen? But the other commuters were deep in their own worlds, checking phones or scanning radio stations or staring ahead at red taillights and hoping for a break in traffic. No one else saw the bird’s precipitous flight, nature’s flirtation with civilization.

If a tree falls in the forest, she thought, but went no further. Of course moments of subtle beauty and soaring grace occur all around us, whether we notice or not. All we can do is try to open our eyes. She held the revelation tight in her stomach where the fear had sat moments before.

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