Friday, April 02, 2010

First Friday: April 2

Kudos to Clare Kines of The House and other Arctic musings! He won this month's First Friday fiction contest. Now he gets to choose a prize from these books: "Bird" by Andrew Zuckerman, "Birds of Borneo" by Susan Myers, "Owl" by Desmond Morris and "Altar of Eden" by James Rollins.

You have the chance to win a recently published birding book if you enter the May contest! Mark May 6 on your calendar as the deadline for your fictional story about birds, birders or birding.

Other criteria:
* The story contains no more than 500 words.
* It includes four elements: a setting, a character or characters, a conflict and a resolution.
* The story does not anthropomorphize birds.
* You send your wordsmithery to before 5 p.m. PST on the first Thursday of the month, and you include your mailing address.

Now, I present April's First Friday winner: "A Large Bill."

Reid Struthers quietly blew out the dust caked in his nose -- quietly. He was in trouble and knew it. He couldnʼt risk discovery. This cold dusty corner of the earth wasnʼt yet Taliban country, but there were enough of them here. The hills might not have eyes, but the Talibanʼs were looking for him. It was a mess, and he knew it.

Struthers was an elite soldier, part of Canadaʼs least-known and secretive units that gets the toughest, dangerous jobs. As he shifted in his small hole in the
ground, keeping from the creeping sunlight, he felt anything but elite.

His squad had been sent to Afghanistanʼs remote Wakhan Corridor to head off an attempt of the Taliban to establish themselves -- and a trade route for opium into China. It was a stunningly beautiful, and until recently largely ignored, area. As it opened up, it became his job to put it back that way.

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Earlier, following up on a report of a group of Taliban fighters on patrol, he had sped to catch up to the others on his ATV, roaring past them in the dark. The rocket-propelled grenade that whizzed by just overhead was the first sign that he was in trouble. He didnʼt have time to contemplate it as the bullets followed right behind, reaching out for him. Turning hard, he fought to control his ATV as it rolled onto two wheels. Skidding and bouncing, he finally brought it back to earth, just in time to slam into a boulder and careen off the edge of the plateau.

He could hear the ATV sliding down the same slope he was now bouncing down, finally gaining his footing as the small arms fire renewed and bullets reached out for him. So he ran, ran down the slope trying to gain distance, and stay upright. It was barely controlled falling.

He moved all night, voices and shots faded gradually farther behind him. When the horizon began to glow, he went to ground in this hole. Calling it a cave would be far too generous. As the sun rose, so did the voices of a bird, calling from the scrub along a river.

All around he could hear the song. Finally, calling from a branch a little in front of his hole, was a small olive bird with a beak too large for its delicate size. It reminded him of reed-warblers he saw in Britain -- but with a different song and a much larger beak. Damned Old World warblers all looked alike to him. If he had clue to what it was, he could add it to his life list.

One of the birds left the scrub and flew down to his hiding place and cocked its head as it checked him out. He was so excited that he almost missed the sound of his squadʼs ATVʼs as they searched for him. The lost had been found -- and the worldʼs least-known bird went back to its singing.

See this news article about Large-Billed Reed-Warblers for the basis of Clare's tale.

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Blogger Amy said...

Wonderful short story, Clare. Congrats!

April 02, 2010 9:27 AM  
Blogger Clare said...

Thanks Amy, and special thanks for running the contest.

April 02, 2010 4:08 PM  
Blogger Kris111 said...

What an adorable story! Even in the heat of battle something as cute as this, God's creation, can put a smile on our face! Love it.

May 01, 2010 4:53 AM  

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