Sooo, I’ve done very few standalone short stories recently, but I was doing another round of the OYAN iPod challenge I’ve done a couple times, and came up with one I’m very happy with.
A bit of origin story:
In case you couldn’t tell by the title, it’s inspired by the Joe Cocker song, “Bye Bye Blackbird”.
Aside from that, I was also trying a new style of writing from a kids’ book I adore. “The Marzipan Pig” by Russel Hoban and Quentin Blake, if anybody’s heard of that. But it’s a lovely little story about a lot of everyday objects and plants and animals and love and the poetic writing style is just wonderful. ❤
All that said.
This is a story about a scarecrow falling in love with a blackbird.
Don’t take me too seriously.
Here we go.
Bye Bye Blackbird
The Smiths’ old scarecrow was a very good scarecrow. He wore Mr. Smith’s old overalls and a straw hat and scared away birds from the corn for many years. But time marched on as time would, and Old Trusty fell apart as scarecrows would.
The winter wind and rain beat him, taking away his things until he was nothing more than a sack and a saggy pair of overalls on a stick. His sack face no longer held its drawn-on smile. He had grown bitter and world-weary. The birds seemed to sense that all the life had left the scarecrow and decided that his weary old form would make a good perch.
And on this particular bright spring day, such was the sight that met the Smiths’ eyes as they sat down to breakfast.
Of course, this would not do. Scarecrows must scare birds, and Old Trusty was no longer trusty on this front.
So, that day was the day Old Trusty was laid to rest in the junk heap and a new scarecrow was born.
She was set up on a new pole in Trusty’s place. Her head was made from a flour sack, with two shoe button eyes and a stitched smile of red thread. Yellow yarn was strung from her head for hair. She wore a floppy hat, a fluttery skirt and an old lace blouse that was yellow with age and had a bright red stain on the front.
Her name was Petunia, Mrs. Smith decided. Her daughter, June, agreed that it was a perfect name.
Mr. Smith had been away for the day and had said he would make a new scarecrow when he came back.
He came back in time for dinner and Mrs. Smith introduced him to Petunia, their new scarecrow.
Mr. Smith raised his eyebrows, but smiled.
“She’s lovely, dear,” he said.
And they all went inside for dinner.
Petunia watched them go from under the brim of her floppy hat. She looked around her at the farm. The small cornfield that she presided over like a queen. The small garden in front of the small house where the Smiths lived. The giant oak tree that stood next to the house and dwarfed everything around it.
Petunia looked up at the oak tree in awe. It looked very wise.
“Hello,” she said, in the scarecrow-speak of rustling her clothes and nodding in the wind. “I’m new here.”
The old oak creaked in a friendly way, rustling its leaves in tree-speak. “I can see that. Welcome to the Smith farm, dear.”
“Thank you,” said Petunia. “Would you mind telling me what I’m to do here?”
“Well it’s all in the name, really,” said the old oak. “You scare away the crows. And the other birds, of course. So they don’t eat the vegetables.”
Petunia looked down at her flowery skirt as it fluttered in the breeze. She thought she looked rather beautiful. “Am I scary?”
“With all that fluttery stuff all over you, you’re terrifying,” squeaked a voice from down below. “To the birds, at least.”
“Oh.” Petunia looked down to see a mouse gathering seeds by the hem of her skirt. “Hello, I’m new here.”
The mouse just rolled his eyes and scurried back to his home in the stone garden wall.
Through the next spring days, Petunia learned the basics of being a scarecrow. It was really pretty easy. She just had to stand there and move in the wind like she usually did and the birds stayed back.
It took very little effort to do and Petunia had plenty of time for contemplating things. Like the boy who kept visiting the Smith farm to see June.
Sometimes he brought flowers, even though the Smiths had better in their garden. Sometimes he brought a guitar and played music, even though his voice cracked and the guitar strings kept twanging the wrong way.
Always, he dressed nicely and tried to comb his unruly hair down. And always, he made June smile and turn red when he said things.
It was odd. But it also seemed to tug on something inside Petunia.
She wondered about it with all the stuffing in her head, until she felt like her yarn hair would fall out with all the wondering.
Oak tree was wise, so one day she asked.
“What is going on with June and that boy?” she asked in a whisper. “Why does she not care that his music sounds bad?”
The oak tree chuckled.
“And why does she turn red?” asked Petunia. “It’s like the boy is the sun and she burns when he’s around.”
“It’s called love,” said the oak tree. “They love each other.”
“Love?” Petunia asked, looking over to the stone garden wall, where June and the boy sat. June leaned her head on the boy’s shoulder and he ran his fingers through her hair.
The mouse huffed as he sat by Petunia. “It’s stupid is what it is.”
Petunia didn’t think it was stupid. She kept watching, thinking it would be nice if there was someone to feel her yarn hair and love her.
The boy leaned over by June and whispered something, then put his lips on her lips.
Petunia stared. “And what was that?”
“Disgusting,” said the mouse.
“A kiss,” said the oak tree.
Petunia decided that she would like a kiss too.
After a day where June wore a pretty white dress and kissed the boy again, she moved away. But her memory and the peony-sweet scent of love stayed on the farm.
“I must find love,” said Petunia to the moon, when all the birds had gone to sleep and her job was done for the day. “The one who is the other half of my soul. He’s out there.”
There was a squeaky groan from the garden wall. “Go to sleep, Petunia.”
“Shh,” rustled the oak tree. “She is young and will learn.”
The weeks wore on and Petunia’s heart of straw grew heavy with longing. Her hat flopped over her face and her stitched smile grew limp.
No one even came near her. The rabbits weren’t interested in the corn she guarded, even though she found them quite handsome with their long ears. The birds were all beautiful in their own ways, but none of them came near her. Too scared of her fluttering skirts to even give a thought to loving her.
But the summer days wore on and a different flock of birds moved in.
They had glossy black wings, small yellow beaks, and a talent for pecking at everything that was a safe distance away from Petunia.
The birds moved as one fluid group. Swooshing this way and that. All the same. All black as the berries on the vine tangled in the fence.
“Blackbirds,” said the oak tree as they perched in her branches.
“Menaces,” grumbled the mouse as he scrounged for what few seeds the birds had left behind.
“Beautiful,” breathed Petunia, her black button eyes shining as she watched them. They were mesmerizing, with their midnight feathers and bright eyes. She wished they weren’t all so scared of her.
They kept their distance and Petunia contented herself with watching and listening to them chatter among themselves. They talked about her sometimes. She heard one call her terrifying. The others all agreed.
But one didn’t agree, still picking at a spot on the ground with his beak. He stayed silent, like he hadn’t heard them.
Petunia’s straw heart rose a little. Could it be? Is there one who might not think I’m terrifying? She watched the little blackbird as his flock moved on.
She saw from the first that he was not like the others. While the others flew straight, all together and all the same, this bird flew his own course. He threw in loops and went off on brave explorations by himself. While the others found only seeds, he was in constant scientific study on whether pebbles were edible.
His bright eyes pointed in different directions, taking in much more of the world than his fellow blackbirds. He was missing a clump of feathers on one wing. Probably from a battle with evil forces defending his fellow birds, Petunia decided.
She kept watching him, willing him to come closer. Willing him to show that he wasn’t scared of her like the other blackbirds.
And one day, he did.
The blackbird came flapping up in his own beautifully unique way and landed right on Petunia’s thin shoulder.
Petunia thought if she were human she might faint from excitement. As it was, she just fluttered in the wind and beamed her red-stitched smile at the bird who wasn’t scared by the movement.
There was a silence for a few seconds between them, thick with passion as they both gazed into each other’s beady eyes.
“Hello,” said Petunia finally. “My name’s Petunia. What’s yours?”
The bird just blinked and tipped his head. Still contemplating her beauty. One eye gazed into her face, while another focused on admiring her skirts.
Petunia now knew why June would turn red when she was with her boy.
The mouse looked up from his seed gathering. “That’s Moe,” he said, barely giving the bird a second glance. “Not exactly the sharpest crayon in the box.”
“Crayon?” breathed Petunia. “What’s a crayon?”
“Never mind.” The mouse ran back to his hole.
Petunia and Moe watched each other. It seemed like there was nothing else in the world but the two of them.
“Cheep,” said Moe. And then he was gone.
“Come back tomorrow!” called Petunia, her straw heart swelling with joy.
And Moe did. And the next day. And the day after that.
The grasses grew dry and brown and the cornstalks drooped, which would have made Petunia sad, except for the fact that she had found Moe.
She had found love.
When no one else would come near her, Moe came and landed right on her shoulder. He would sing her his crackly blackbird songs and plucked lovingly at her yarn hair.
Petunia would smile brightest when he was around. She told him everything on her mind and he always listened.
And in the golden sunset of summer, another love bloomed on the Smith farm.
But summer was not forever. Fall came. September came and went.
The birds around the Smith farm diminished, all flying the same direction across the sky. Some in fluttering clouds, some in smooth V shapes.
The blackbirds stayed longer than the others, but finally, Moe’s family began their flight south.
Moe wasn’t gone yet, but Petunia began to worry.
“Why are the birds leaving?” she asked the old oak tree, whose leaves were now aflame with color. It seemed like everything was changing in this season.
“It’s autumn,” said the oak tree. “Winter is coming. I’ll sleep under the snow after I lose my leaves. Mouse will eat all the seeds he’s been saving up. It gets very cold and the birds would die if they stayed.”
“Die?” said Petunia.
“Like those cornstalks out there,” said the mouse. “Shrivel up. Leave just a husk and rot away.”
“But I want Moe to stay with me.” Petunia fluttered her skirts in agitation.
The oak tree sighed. “He has to migrate to live, dear.”
“You’ve got a chance for him to stay, though,” said the mouse, scratching at his ear absently. “He’s the only bird dumb enough to sit on a scarecrow, so he might be too dumb to fly south.”
Petunia didn’t want Moe to die. She knew he had to fly south soon.
But so little time left with her love made her heart of straw sink inside her.
“Well,” she told herself. “Best to make the most of the time you have.”
She didn’t sleep that night, simply watching the orange moon rise and thinking sorrowful thoughts.
Early the next morning, Moe sat on Petunia’s shoulder as he usually did, his feathers fluffed to keep him warm as they watched the sunrise together. Feelings swelled inside Petunia as the colors swelled in the sky.
Finally, she got up the nerve to say the words that had slowly been growing ripening to sweetness like the corn she was planted in.
“Moe?” said Petunia. “I love you.”
Moe scratched at his wing with his beak and ruffled his feathers.
There was a fluttering overhead and Petunia saw Moe’s flock, finally flying south.
Moe looked up, then looked over at Petunia and tilted his head. “Eeee cheep,” he said.
“I don’t care if you love me back or not,” Petunia rushed on. “I simply must say it because I might never see you again and I need you to know. I love you, Moe.”
But Moe was not looking into Petunia’s button eyes as he usually did with his one eye that looked where he willed it. He was looking at her stitched smile. It was drawn with a passionate tightness that Petunia hoped he could see.
“Please love me back, my beautiful blackbird,” she pleaded. “Show me you love me before you leave.”
Moe warbled in the back of his throat, then did something Petunia had only ever dreamed of.
He hopped over, clinging his tiny feet to the front of her lacy blouse, and leaned in, plucking his beak right on the red thread of Petunia’s mouth.
Petunia’s skirts fluttered like never before, her bright eyes shining as the rising sun glinted off of them.
It was a kiss.
A real kiss.
Moe had flapped off, a piece of red thread in his mouth, before Petunia could properly collect her thoughts to respond. She was left smiling after his flight into the rising sun, her mouth in a crooked half-smile.
Moe let out an off-key chirping of her favorite one of his songs, faltering in his loopy flight as the red thread tangled itself around his foot.
Petunia fluttered her skirts and sleeves in a farewell.
Hope that satisfies everyone’s need for weird romance for the day, and brightens the start to your week. ❤
See you all next time!