Bedraggled Bird

All right, yes, I admit it. This post is little more than an excuse to announce the publication of a new short story. It’s called Windborne, and it is appearing in Strange Fictions Zine, Friday, April 28, 1:30 EST. Oddly precise, I know, but I guess that’s just the way it is with online zines.

It is a little disingenuous of me to call it a new story. Windborne is at least 12 years old. It was the first story I ever wrote, at least since my college days. I never particularly wanted to be a writer, at least not of fiction. Songs were what I wrote, lots of them. I sang them with several rock bands, then by myself, then only for myself. My musical career traced a long and squiggled line, but that line had a decidedly negative slope.

After that, I got married, had some kids, and settled into a life where my only creative impulses were realized in idiosyncratic woodworking projects. And that was fine. If I was experiencing any great lack in my life, I wasn’t aware of it.

Then, one afternoon I was standing on Moonstone Beach. The kids were playing in the water by the big rock. There were a lot of people there. It was windy but warm. I was standing on a flat rock near the runoff. The wind was blowing full in my face, rifling my clothes. It was one of those winds where a sudden gust can jostle you, knock you off stride—almost, if you let your imagination unreel a bit, lift you up off your feet and into the air.

That’s where the story was born. I stood there, buffeted by the sea wind, and wrote the whole thing in my head.

Later that evening, I wrote it out for real. I showed it to my wife. She liked it. I’m fairly sure I didn’t show it to anybody else for a good—oh, I don’t know—maybe six or seven years.

The first time it showed its face in public was on the Book Country website. Some of you remember that site. Writers posted stories or excerpts from novels, and then everybody did critiques and reviews, made suggestions. Mostly people played nice, but not everyone was above getting petty and personal at times. And that was okay too. If you write for public consumption, you have to get used to the idea that not everyone is going to find it wonderful.

Windborne (and yes, I know the title needs a hyphen, but I didn’t like the way it looked) was the first thing I posted, along with several chapters from my then fledgling novel, Flight of the Wren. Wren mostly got ignored, but Windborne inspired a pretty spirited response. Mostly folks liked it, but there were a few who really didn’t. I didn’t save any of the reviews, but I remember the gist of the critical ones:

“What’s the point of this?”

“This seems unfinished. Is there more?”

“Your protagonist has no character development.”

And, of course, everyone’s favorite:

“Show, don’t tell!”

Pretty standard stuff, and not entirely unfair (though the idea that there might be more to the story always mystified me. How could there be?) In truth, Windborne is a slight thing—a brief, troubling dream with a rude awakening. If there’s a character to be studied, it is the character of the crowd (maybe). If there is a point, well, your interpretation is as good as mine. In case anyone wonders, I made no substantial revisions between the Book Country version and the one published today. I might have smoothed a few ruffled feathers here and there, but it’s essentially the same bird.

Anyway, I hope you like it. If nothing else, it might stand as a message of hope. Twelve years isn’t a lifetime in the publishing world, but it’s a fair chunk of time. This tiny winged thing, after riding the winds for what must have seemed like an eternity, finally found a welcoming shore.


13 thoughts on “Bedraggled Bird

  1. Ah, WINDBORNE! This was the story that first brought you to my attention on Book Country. I remember how surprised I was; how different your charming short-short was from everything else published there. I used the phrase then (since repeated elsewhere here on this site) that your writing showed rare skill and promise, as it had “the light, deft touch of whimsy”. I am very glad to learn that this zen-like piece has finally found a published home.

    Liked by 2 people

    • atthysgage says:

      I’m glad you remember it fondly, Carl. It’s nice to see it in print. Though, argh!, I already spotted a missing word in the printed copy. Oh well. I hope folks like it anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m sure they will, Atthys! PS. And I wouldn’t sweat the missing word; most readers understand that occasional typos and other errors creep into even the most polished of professionally edited copy. The worst experience I ever had in this regard: newWitch magazine (who published COME HALTINGLY, ON LAME FEET) many years ago cut a couple of paragraphs from my copy to squeeze it into columnar text on the page–and then published the entire damn story UNDER ANOTHER WRITER’S NAME!!! They printed a very red-faced mea culpa in their next issue, of course–under the headline: “Driving Our Writers Over the Edge.” Heh! I look back on all of this fondly now, of course. It is all rather amusing–though I still hope to get an updated version of the story published somewhere. . . .

        Liked by 2 people

        • You should. That’s a particular favorite of mine. I wouldn’t rule out Strange Fictions Zine, since they seem to be new and peckish, although I’d bet Come Haltingly could aim higher. and land comfortably.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Just read it. Great writing. Doesn’t need character development – it’s all about the onlookers’ perceptions as they grapple with what they’re seeing. The reader is fully with them on the beach. And we only shift to the man at the end, which is, as you say pretty conclusive.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. GD Deckard says:

    Ha! I love Windborne. It sucked me right in, kept me interested to the end and left me smiling.
    (I can see you getting PoV criticism on Book Country. But don’t change a word just to satisfy critics who can only see stories through a camera lens. Television has tricked their minds.)
    Windborne is timeless. I can see it being told in any generation, in any culture. It is a marvel-ous story well told. I won’t forget it.

    Liked by 1 person

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