Fiction Friday: [The Kettle]

Swallows gathered and swirled around one another near the tree line. I knew they were swallows from their double pointed tails and white chests. It was the only thing I learned yesterday. It may be the only thing I’ve learned since I’ve been here.

Camp. I didn’t know why they called it that. No one here was under the delusion that it was anything less than a prison. The counselors walked around with smiles, filled their sentences with rising tones and had a limitless list of outdoor activities to pack our days, but it was a prison nonetheless. One of them overheard me tell my bunk mate that, when you surround damaged city kids with endless miles of trees, there was no need for bars. Her eyes weren’t filled with the anger I’d expected, but even worse, it was pity. I hated when other people realized I was too smart for my circumstances, so I’ve avoided her ever since.

The cyclonic frenzy continued to grow and, at first, it made me a little nervous. Animals could sense things. Like impending doom. I scanned the trees for stumbling zombies and the sky for hovering giant silver discs that shot green lasers. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed when neither came to pass. It only took three weeks at this boring camp to make me miserable when odd bird activity wasn’t a precursor to the world ending.

In five minutes I’ll have to climb down off the bunk bed and head to a group session. If vampires or werewolves wanted to swarm the place, now would be the time. The group sessions were worse than the hikes and the canoeing. I didn’t understand why they thought talking would fix things. It wasn’t going to get my mom a job or keep the pipe out of my dad’s hand. It certainly wasn’t going to soften the war zone that was my walk to school. When one of the other kids actually spoke, the counselor’s faces would light up and I could see them banking their do-gooder points. Like they could redeem them for fancy coffees or something.

As if swept up by a gust of wind, the flurry of feathers rose above the tree tops in one cohesive, circling unit. It was so sudden I held my breath, believing this could be it. That whatever was going to go down was about to happen now. But, just as suddenly as they had gathered, they dispersed filling the sky with black and white confetti as they flew in every direction.

Watching as they grew smaller and smaller, an emptiness filled their void. And a tinge of jealousy. Of their community. Of their freedom. My chest felt like the birds had regrouped and gathered there. The flap of their wings threatening to dislodge emotions that I’d buried long ago.

Luckily, there was a rattled knock on the screen door to snap me back. It was time for group. I jumped down off the bunk and walked out under the blazing sun with the dizzying swirl still pounding in my chest.