She wanted to play with the blue parakeet,
so she cupped it in her hands, then let it perch
on her index finger
until her father said the bird was tired,
dear, it gets tired, it’s just a little thing,
so she made it rest an hour
then took it out again,
letting it balance on her shoulder. Sometimes
it tried to fly,
but its wings had been clipped
so it fluttered to the floor and hid under the table
until she lifted it again, stroking its head,
while her father said,
it’s late now, the bird needs to sleep
and so do you.
The bird would survive a week.
It is wonderful to be in love,
said the drone to its target,
but the target
was talking to his daughter.
In love, in love, in love,
said the drone fluttering at the target’s window.
It had a hot engine, a propeller’s low pulse.
It took twenty pictures
which it sent wirelessly
to the Central Office,
pictures of a man in a well-lit dining room,
his black-haired daughter,
and her blue parakeet.
He was, the investigators believed, a very bad man,
so they observed him
with the attention of a lover.
Everything he said, their drone recorded, compressed,
and sent on to the Bureau
where such information
for the prosecution.
Before she returned it to the cage,
she let the bird peck at a pile of seed
she held in her palm.
ate just a little. Blueberry, blueberry,
she said, stroking its feathers,
while her father
spoke tersely on the phone,
then studied the map
he’d spread on the table,
a map the little drone
tried to photograph through the window.
In her bedroom,
the cage was an empty head.
But when she opened the door
and the parakeet hopped inside,
the cage was alive with thought.
And when she covered it for the night,
the feverish cage
imagined first the apartment
and its tempting windows,
then the sky beyond them,
the pulse of heat on sun-dappled wings,
and heavenward distances.
Darling, her father said at her bedroom door,
I’ve got to go out for a bit. But I’ll be back very soon.
So the girl fetched the parakeet
and turned on the TV
while the drone
followed her father down the street, hovering above his car
as he merged onto the highway—
The blue parakeet balanced
on the girl’s finger, looking toward the black windows.
Then it hopped onto her shoulder,
its quick little heart
flickering in its chest. Blueberry, blueberry,
she said, posing it on the chair’s back, the mantel, the book shelf,
until the bird fluttered to the floor again
and hid among the newspapers—
Don’t forget I love you,
the drone said as the bullet found its victim
and her father slipped the gun back into his pocket,
walking calmly down the dead man’s driveway.
I love you,
as he pulled into the street, I love you
as he turned left onto the highway ramp toward home,
the little drone
right behind him.
Click, click, click,
said the part of its brain that takes pictures
and sends them on to the young men
at the Central Office—
When he got home,
he found his daughter asleep on the sofa,
all the lights on, the blue parakeet
catching its breath
on the curtain rod.
She’s so light, he thought,
carrying her to bed, light as a thought.
He loved her too much.
And the young men at the Central Office
put away the lovesick drone.
And her father put on his pajamas
and turned out the lights.
In the middle of the night,
the parakeet returned to its cage
where it knew it would be safe.
from The Art of FictionFind more by Kevin Prufer at the library
Copyright © 2021 Kevin Prufer
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Four Way Books.