First Friday: April 6
If you want to earn that chance, then write an original 500-word short story about birds, birding or birders that includes a setting, a character or characters, a conflict and a resolution. Also, the birds cannot be anthropomorphized.
Thank you to this month's authors! I can't wait to hear from you again and to receive entries from new writers, too. Please submit stories for the May edition by May 2.
Without further blather: "Navigator" by Tai Haku
It had taken a long time while sitting in the raft, but Jacob had come to hate the birds. At first he was grateful of their company. He knew others had gotten off the boat before it went down; he’d seen people in other inflatable life rafts in the distance. Somehow he’d wound up alone in a raft, and the others had become farther and farther spread until he could no longer make them out.
He was left alone on the sea with the birds. He’d spent the first few days watching them as he hoped for a quick rescue, distracting himself from his darker thoughts as he watched the giant albatrosses and skuas glide effortlessly past him.
He particularly enjoyed watching the smaller birds. They looked so fragile as they skimmed the waves or hovered, paddling at the water with their feet. Jacob reasoned that if something so tiny and fragile could survive out here, then so could he.
Jacob’s love of watching the birds diminished with his hopes of rescue as the first week ended. Suddenly their ease in the open ocean didn’t seem a comfort to him anymore but a mockery.
Shearwaters sat behind the boat, frustrating his attempts to catch fish. Every albatross wheeling down to investigate him before dropping a wing and speeding away seemed to highlight his inability to guide himself to safety.
Jacob was helpless while the birds were powerful, and he began to hate them for it. Jacob tried to ignore the birds as best he could and even made fitful and feeble attempts to down the more bold ones by swinging his paddle at them.
Seventeen days in, fitfully moving in and out of consciousness, Jacob became aware of movement at the far end of the raft. Another bird had landed. He resolved to try with the paddle one more time.
Summoning all his strength, he lunged, bringing the paddle down flat on the rubber edge of the raft. The bird moved effortlessly but didn’t fly off. It had simply flitted a few feet down the edge of the raft.
Jacob stared at it, blinking. It was different from the other birds. It was a little bigger than the very smallest birds he’d seen but, unlike them, didn’t share that white and black patterning they seemed to favour. This bird was brown, with yellow streaks and darker coloured dots. It looked more like something he’d see on a bird table than the ocean.
Suddenly realisation came: It didn’t belong here. It was like him; it belonged on the land. Jacob turned, frantically scanning the horizon. Eventually he saw it -- a small ribbon of darkness above the ocean to the south.
Jacob looked back at the bird, and the bird looked at Jacob. It cocked its head to one side and took off, flying south straight over Jacob’s head toward the ribbon of land… with Jacob’s raft clumsily, achingly slowly but undeniably following it home.