The Bird

The Bird

A Story by Evie McFarland

A story about a therapist who can't connect to anyone.


“And now every time I taste grapefruit, it reminds me of him.”

            I blink once, then realize that Mrs. McKenna has stopped speaking and is looking at me expectantly.“That must be difficult,” I say.

            “It is,” Mrs. McKenna says. Her right leg is crossed behind the left one, and her ankle bounces up and down nervously as the silence lengthens. The veins in her hands bulge as she clasps her hands together tighter.

            I clear my throat. “How is the rest of your family dealing with this?”

            She’s off again. I lean back in my chair, gazing at my clipboard and nodding once or twice as her words float aimlessly around my head. Mrs. McKenna is one of those people who cannot speak and make eye contact simultaneously. As her lips move, her eyes are fixed on the dark mahogany table that separates us. I allow my eyes to wander, and they fall on a bird perched on my windowsill. Must be a chickadee. All the other birds have gone south this time of year. We stare at each other for a few seconds before it turns its head, disinterested, then hops off the windowsill and disappears into the gray sky.

            “And I feel like he blames me because he doesn’t understand. He wasn’t there�"how could he understand? How could anyone understand?” Mrs. McKenna’s voice grows louder in volume and higher in frequency, cutting into my reverie. “He doesn’t say anything�"well, he can’t, because he’s a dog�"but it’s a change in disposition. He’s been avoiding me lately�"always sleeps in the living room.”

            I place my hand over my mouth and fight to maintain a neutral expression.

            “Maybe he doesn’t blame me, though,” says Mrs. McKenna thoughtfully. “Maybe it’s me�"I’ve been acting differently ever since the accident, I just know it. I used to take him to the dog park three times a week. Now, I’m lucky if I�"are you alright?”

            I turn my laughter into a cough, then I turn my head away from her and bring my fist to my face. “My rheumatism,” I say, coughing as I do so, “It’s acting up today. It’s the weather.” I continue coughing for an appropriate amount of time, then turn to face Mrs. McKenna again. “My apologies,” I say.

            “It’s okay,” she says, looking down again and tugging at the hem on her sleeve. “Anyways, I�"”

            “Ms. McKenna,” I reach across the table and grab hold of her hand. “I know what you need.”

I feel her arm grow tense. “You do?” she asks.

 “Yes,” I say, nodding wisely. “You need to forgive yourself.”

The hand goes limp. There is a silence that lasts several long moments. “I have forgiven myself,” she says eventually. “But my husband’s still dead, and I still feel upset about it.”

I withdraw my hand and lean back in my chair. “How long have you been coming here?”

Her eyes move back to the table. “Four months, two weeks,” she says.

I blink once. Has it really been that long? “Exactly,” I say. “Four months, two weeks. And what’s changed since then? Are you happier?”

She clasps her hands together again and sits very still. “I’m happier than I was after the accident,” she says. “At least, I think. I can’t quite remember. It’s all so foggy.”

I look at my clipboard. “According to what I’ve seen, you are improving with each week. Every time I see you, you are more content, more peaceful, more accepting.”

Ms. McKenna frowns at the table. “I am?”

“The changes are small, but the progress is undeniable,” I say. “Humans are resilient creatures, Ms. McKenna.” I wish I could use her first name, since it’s so much more personable�"but I can’t for the life of me remember it, and I left her chart over on my desk. “I’ve seen many people who are destroyed by tragedy, and I lie awake every night knowing I cannot help them. You are not one of those people.”

She raises her eyes. “I’m not?”

I smile knowingly. “You don’t believe me?” I ask. “How about this. I’ll extend your weekly sessions from one hour to two hours. Does that make you feel better?”

She frowns. “I…”

“I understand you’re frightened,” I say. “It’s a long process, Mrs. McKenna, but you’re already on your way. I can see the change in you already. I just need you to see it in you.”

She stares at me with wide eyes, like a frightened animal trapped by the headlights of an oncoming car. “Okay,” she says eventually. “Yes. Okay. Thank you.”

On the drive home, I get stuck in traffic. I roll up my window, raise the volume on the radio, and lean back in the driver’s seat with one hand on the wheel. I whistle along to the tune on the radio and thank the Lord for idiots like Mrs. McKenna.

I’m a minute from home when I remember that I was supposed to pick up Adam from soccer. I back into my neighbor’s driveway and turn around hastily. When I arrive, Adam is sitting alone at the edge of the field pulling up fistfuls of grass in his hands. I drive up next to him and roll down the window.

“Sorry, buddy,” I say. “Got stuck in traffic.”

Adam glares at me sullenly. “Nobody else was stuck in traffic,” he says.

“Well nobody else works where I work, do they?” I ask. Scowling, Adam pushes himself to his feet and ambles over to the car. He opens up the door and crawls into the seat.”Close the door, could you?” I ask. “We’re late. Your mom’s gonna be pissed.”Adam slams the door. I pull out of the parking lot and take off down the road. Fifteen minutes late already. At least I can blame it on the traffic.

“So did you guys win?” I ask.

“It was a practice,” Adam says.

“Good, good,” I say. The light is yellow. I slam my foot down on the gas pedal.

“You’re going above the speed limit,” says Adam.

“Don’t worry about it,” I say. “You score any goals?”

“It was a practice,” Adam says. The light turns red. I’m not going to make it. I slam on the breaks, and the car jerks to a stop.

“I’m going to puke,” Adam says.

“You’d better not,” I say. “Do it in your lunchbox, if you have to.”

“I’m not actually,” Adam says. The light turns green and I slam my foot on the gas pedal.

“This car’s barely a year old,” I explain to Adam. “You’re mom would�"”

My speech is interrupted by the sound of a loud thwack�"I jerk my head to the right, just in time to see a small, indistinguishable object roll off the windshield disappear behind us. Adam lets out a cry of dismay and rolls the window down.

“Relax, buddy,” I say. “It was just a�"”

“It was a bird!” Adam shouts, his whiny voice clearly audible over the sound of air coming in through the window. “I saw it! It was a bird! You killed a bird, dad! We have to go back!”

 “Look,” I say. “Even if it was a bird, we didn’t kill it. In fact, it’s probably flown away by now. Birds fly into windshields all the time. They recover pretty quick.” I roll up the window as Adam sits there quietly. We drive along in silence for some time.

“I know you killed it,” Adam says. “I’m almost ten. I’m not stupid, you know.”

 I blink once. Almost ten? I could’ve sworn he just turned nine last month. “I told you it’s fine,” I say, with growing agitation. “Birds fly into windshields all the�"”

 “You killed it,” Adam interrupts. His voice becomes high-pitched and whiny. “You killed the bird and you don’t even care!”

I slam my fist against the steering wheel. “Shut up!” I say. “I didn’t kill the damn bird! Jesus Christ, don’t you ever shut up?”

The car is filled with a ringing silence. I reach forward and raise the volume of the radio. They’re playing a song I’ve never heard before. As we pull into the driveway, I glance at the clock. “How bout we tell your mom the game ran late?” I ask. “We won’t get in trouble that way.”

Adam unbuckles his seatbelt, wrenches the door open, and slams it behind him. I turn the key in the ignition and the radio cuts off. I watch as his small figure storms towards the house. 

“Seriously,” I mutter. “Over a goddamn bird.”

© 2013 Evie McFarland

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Added on December 3, 2013
Last Updated on December 3, 2013
Tags: family, cynicism, fatherhood, therapy


Evie McFarland
Evie McFarland

I am a moderately insane eighteen-year-old who enjoys writing and music and standardized testing. Also, those pencils that have multiple tips hidden inside them. Those are awesome. more..

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