This is a short story written for #BlogBattle over at http://rachaelritchey.com/blogbattle/
The theme for this story is ‘Feathers’ This is my fiction piece.
UPDATE: I was the winner of the #Blog Battle for my ‘Feathers’ piece! Thanks to everyone who read and voted!
It was last March when all the trees sprouted feathers instead of leaves and the birds grew flowers and leaves instead of feathers. Just to make things equal, I suppose. Sure, it was strange and very surprising at first; I remember being over in Riverside Park for a case, all the way up by 125th street where the park is below West Side Drive, down on the river that looks out on Jersey. I remember taking a cigarette break and looking down into the water where a mess of feathers floated. I thought for a moment maybe a boat had hit a duck or something, but when I looked up, I saw a tree, bent in the breeze shedding feathers. I figured it was an isolated incident, something I’d read about in the paper next week, but Wilson’s existence in the sliver of a chair that sat in the sliver of New York I called an office changed that.
“It’s only affecting certain species of trees,” Wilson told me from behind his clear framed glasses and sandy brown hair, his voice like burnt coffee. “Palms seem to be just fine, as well as anything in the Spruce and Fir family.”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
He threw a briefing down on the desk in front of me. “You’re the best person for the job,” he said. He was right, but I was holding out for as much money as I could get. “You figured out why that volcano appeared in Central Park. You helped stop those baby tornadoes that kept popping up in Williamsburg. You even tracked down why the sturgeon in the Hudson started singing the entirety of A Little Night Music.”
“Those fish love Sondheim,” I noted.
“We’ve got people working on the consequences of this, but I need to know why,” he said.
“Find someone else, I’ve already got a case.”
He wrote a number down on a piece of paper. I added a zero. He sighed, but nodded.
I took the case.
I made slow progress the first few weeks. As March turned to April, it became more apparent which trees bloomed feathers and which were unaffected. Birds, however, didn’t get such a lucky break. Eagles on the Hudson grew oak leaves, pet parrots bloomed with tulip petals. Pigeons, once the winged rats of our fair city, now sported beautiful flowers of bluebells and nasturtiums, buckeye leaves and dogwood petals. Tourists made pilgrimage to New York, eschewing the Statue of Liberty and Radio City to take photos of Pigeons. I was happy to see the little winged clowns get the spotlight for once; I always thought Pigeons were cute. I have a sneaking suspicion that all New Yorkers do as well, New York code forbids one from admitting it.
A month passed, feathers in the trees waving the breeze, sparrows with buttercups for wings flitting about, and still I had no idea why these two species decided to mix it up. Was it a fluke? I decided to try my usual suspects.
I checked in with the Super Villain that lives on 175th, by Highbridge Park, but he only laughed at me. “What sort of stupid evil plan would that be, turning fowl to flower and arbor to avian?” I made sure to let all his lab mice out of their cages before I left, setting whatever plan he had scheming back a few months.
I had similar luck with the Witch Queen of Gowanus. She simply shook her head and sadly remarked, “It pains me to see the birds so limited in flight and the trees so unnatural. I pray to see their return to normalcy by the hour.”
Even the Frost Alien who disguises himself as a Great Pyrenees in Washington Square Park couldn’t tell me anything. “Woof. Woof bark,” he said. “I’m not an alien, why do you keep asking if I am? What about the trees?” He declined to comment further.
Exhausted, I grabbed a Falafel and a Coke and sat on a park bench with a cigarette. Tourists from around the world frantically photographed flowered Pigeons. On the bench next me, a little girl fed a Pigeon who had sprouted wide, flat leaves adorned with acorns.
“She’s the Fairie Queen of Birds,” the little girl said, throwing scraps of a hot dog bun for her majesty, the Queen Pigeon.
I nodded and browsed my phone.
“You look angry,” she said to me.
I raised an eyebrow. “Why do you think these birds have flowers?” I asked the girl. “Why did a bunch of trees all of a sudden grow feathers?” I stomped out my cigarette.
“Because,” she said, eyes focused on the canopy of feathers above her. “The trees want to fly and the birds want to be more beautiful.”
She threw another scrap of bun for a group of birds that fought and pecked for it and turned to me, smiling.
“That’s stupid,” I said, grabbing my phone and keying ‘birds of prey’ into the search engine. “Look at this Eagle. And this Falcon. They’re beautiful. Have you ever seen a Peacock? Or a Toucan? Look…. look at this redwood tree out in California, look how deep the roots go. Birds are already beautiful and if trees wanted to fly they wouldn’t have dug into the earth so far.”
I shook my head and walked away.
I never did figure out what it was, but when Wilson came back, I fed him the girl’s response. He pulled a face, but agreed it was poetic. If the supernatural couldn’t explain it, it might as well say something that sounds beautiful about it.
This year, as the birds molt and March slogs through some late snow, everything seems to be back to normal. Birds with feathers, Trees with leaves and flowers.
I guess we’ll never know why exactly it happened, but I long ago decided not everything needs an explanation. Not everything happens for a reason because sometimes, the reasons just don’t make sense. You’ve gotta let the trees dream of flying and the birds dream of, um, photosynthesis? Don’t ask me, I’m just one man with little poetic spirit.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m going out for a smoke.