Little Bird

DW McKinney

The mother calls her daughter Little Bird for the golden tufts atop her head and the way she mimics the starlings and bowerbirds, stealing their chirps and squeaks, peeping and singing until the day her childish body elongates and her arms lengthen and bend for flight, and her finger bones arch like talons, and the sounds—she eats more of them in her long throat: the shout of her father driving down the road, the scrape and squeak of fingernails on a chalkboard, the cry of her only friend who skins his knee on the playground, the knock knock knock ooh that comes from behind closed bedroom doors, and she releases them all in warbles and halting shrieks, which ease into weeping moans of ecstasy that send her friend running into the street, where cars beep beep beep then smash, metal crunching and tearing lives into pieces, and Little Bird replays this scene at dinner, her feathered arms waving and banging against the table, upending the cups, her mouth a cage of misshapen teeth releasing the crunch and snap of bones, the soft splat of blood, and the rattles of death that shake “please God, stop” from her mother’s cracked lips but Little Bird catches her mother’s voice, gobbles it up, and says, “More.”

DW McKinney is a writer and editor based in Nevada. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Los Angeles Review of Books, Ecotone, The Normal School, Barrelhouse, and Hippocampus Magazine, among others. She is a nonfiction editor for Shenandoah and editor-at-large for Raising Mothers. Say hello at