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by Steven John

There’s a small red-breasted bird in the garden. Not a robin. It’s pinkier than a robin and lacks the personality. We refer to our copy of British Wildlife — 3rd Edition, which we keep under the binoculars on the windowsill.

(p124). We’ve narrowed it down to either a bullfinch or chaffinch. For a week the bird has been jousting with its own reflection in the glazed pot outside the window. It hasn’t been eating and it’s getting weaker by the day, enraptured, as a ghost moth (p56) is to light, literally dying of sexual frustration. We expect to find it dead on the slabs any day soon.

(p99). The grey heron that haunts the garden pond wants to eat the palmate newts (p33) and goldfish (immigrant species) but we’ve fixed netting over the water. The heron stands motionless for hours, head tilted, watching the pond-life it can never reach. If there’s any untoward movement it ascends to the clouds.

(p201). We saw a pair of barn owls on our chimneys last night. They bathed their faces in moonlight then looked down at us with eyes the colour of pity.

(p72). There was an albino dove on the garden path today; the hybrid released at funerals with pure white plumage — apart from where it had been beheaded. We slipped it into a pillowcase and gave it a woodland burial. We think the predator would have been a goshawk (p165) or mink (p25), although wolves kill for pleasure (unconfirmed sightings in the UK).

The pair of flightless birds in the window never venture far from the roost. They skitter like common quail (p117) in deep cover, watchful of other more courageous animals. During daylight hours one of them will forage for food whilst the other goes into a morbid trance. At night they swerve from their own reflections, and from each other, like serotine bats (p184). We haven’t been able to identify them from British Wildlife. We’ve concluded they were bred in captivity.


Steven John’s writing has appeared in Riggwelter, Spelk, Fictive Dream, The Cabinet of Heed, EllipsisZine, Ghost Parachute and Best Microfiction 2019. He’s won Bath Ad Hoc Fiction a joint record six times and has been nominated for BIFFY 2019. He lives in the Cotswolds, England. Steven is Fiction & Special Features Editor at newflashfictionreview.com. @StevenJohnWrite, stevenjohnwriter.com

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