by David Henson
When the old man dreams birds can fly and that they live in trees instead of holes in the ground, he’s moved to make it true. Come dawn he gathers seeds from his garden, goes to the village park and sits on his favorite boulder.
He scatters seeds at his feet and waits. After a couple of hours, a few doves venture from their burrows and approach him. The old man is motionless as the birds shuffle around. The villagers in the park watch from a distance.
The old man returns with his seeds every day till he feels the birds are ready for the next step. He eases himself from the boulder to the ground and sprinkles the seeds around him. Most of the doves shy away, but one, smallish, probably a female, with a black arch over her eye, lingers. Before long, she’s nibbling from his hand. He cradles the bird and raises her slightly. When alarm quivers her feathers, he puts her down. She runs toward her burrow, but the spell of the seeds is too strong, and she returns to the old man.
The old man repeatedly picks up the dove. Then, stroking under her neck with his thumb, he stands. Surprised, she kicks and flusters at the height. When he squeezes her gently, she quiets, puffs up her neck and coos. His heart sings, but he knows much work remains.
The following day, he tosses the dove a few feet into the air. Her wings blunder and she tumbles back into his hands. He pitches her progressively higher, catching her each time till finally she glides to his feet. When he places a seed on his shoulder, she rises to take it. He feels she’ll be ready the next day.
The park basks in the sun. A breeze browses the maples. Parents watch their children gambol. The old man ignores it all, one thought soaring in his mind. He holds the dove, bends down, straightens and flings her to the sky. The bird’s wings thrash then achieve symmetry. She gains altitude and circles — climbing, dipping and dodging — flying as in the old man’s dream.
When she whistles to his shoulder, stamps her feet and fans her tail, he gives her a seed and whispers. She seems to understand and streams to her burrow where her squabs chitter to learn their mother’s new ability.
He plans to teach a few more doves, then leave it to them to disperse amongst themselves the seeds of flight he’s sown. Then he’ll move on to the next.
He watches a boy hound a robin. It runs around a tree to evade the child. Fortunately the old man’s garden is also rich in caterpillars.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for Best of the Net and has appeared in numerous print and online journals including MoonPark Review, Gravel, Bull & Cross, Lost Balloon, The Fiction Pool, Fictive Dream and Literally Stories. His website is writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.