Friday, January 15, 2010

Flash Fiction #21: What the Kookaburra Saw

I was walking by the pet store with my fiancée when I heard the kookaburra's mocking laugh and was instantly reminded the day my mother first told me I was a witch.

"We have to talk," she informed me. At thirteen, I'd already long since learned to fear those words, although in this case I'd been fully expecting her to tell me she was getting remarried. Again. I didn't remember my real father, and I'd had seven stepfathers already so I wasn't particularly concerned anymore. The various fathers would come and go, but in the end it was always going to be just Mom and me.

We were on vacation, enjoying every minute of our stay on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Sitting on our rented veranda overlooking the ocean as the sun set behind us, the bird in the garden laughed at my mother’s statement. Perhaps he knew what was coming; I certainly didn't.

"I'm a witch," she told me. Short, simple and to the point. Always. "And so are you," she added. I didn't have a clue how to respond to that. Really, what was I supposed to think when my perfectly normal if endearingly flaky mother announced that she was a witch? The bird repeated his shrill laugh.

"It runs through the women in our family," she continued as though we were discussing a unique hair colour, "you'll probably start to discover your skills in the next couple years, and I just wanted you to be aware. Grandma never told me and finding out was... well... a bit of a shock to say the least." I wondered idly if she had just revealed to me the source of animosity between her and her mother. My mother was looking at me for a response, but what could I say?

"Skills?" I asked, choosing the simplest thing I could think of.

"Most of us have a smattering of all the skills, but everyone I know is particularly strong in one. Grandma was a telepath, although she'd never acknowledge it. Aunt Ally is both an empath and a healer -- she can literally feel what other people feel, and has the ability to heal both physical and emotional problems. Hers is a powerful but very difficult skill to live with. My skill is magic. Old-fashioned magic."

"Magic?" I asked, with a level of scorn and doubt only teenagers are capable of. Usually I would've been in serious trouble for speaking to my mother that way, but with a strange half smile she let it go. I shivered as the wind picked up and the kookaburra laughed.

"Watch," she said, and blowing gently across the palm of her hand, a flame suddenly lit. She tossed it to the wind, and we watched it swirl around, this one little flame being lifted, swirled and dropped much like a fall leaf. She held out her hand and the flame returned to it like a trained bird and vanished at the same moment the wind died.

She looked at me and I carefully kept my face blank, determined to display the apathy required for my age. She raised her arms and seconds later was sitting on the roof, her feet dangling over the side. She tilted her head to the side and suddenly I was beside her, and all attempts at indifference were abandoned. I clutched the edge of the roof and looked at my mother with a mix of fear and awe. And suddenly I had a million questions.

She laughed delightedly at my enthusiasm, thrilled to finally be able to share with me that which set her apart from the rest of the world. We spoke through the night, sitting on that roof-top on the other side of the world. And as the sun rose in front of us and the Kookaburra sounded his cheerful twitter again, this time I felt I could laugh with him.

3 comments:

Lauren Cude said...

If you've never had the pleasure of being awoken by a very hungry kookaburra outside your window, have a listen here.

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

Some girls get all the luck, my mum only passed on some of her OCD!

Loved the "apathy required by the age", too true!

Eric J. Krause said...

Very cool. I wonder what the limits to mom's powers are, and what power the narrator is going to get.

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