by Tony Rauch

I’m lying in bed late at night. I hear my parents in the hall. They’re whispering and tip-toeing. This makes me nervous. I hope they’re not fighting. If they’re fighting, I’d rather not hear. I’d rather not know about it.

I pretend to be sleeping. I’m supposed to be sleeping. I wish I were sleeping. Then I hear my mother say, “The conditions look favorable.” Maybe they’re going out to do some late night yard work or gardening. Maybe they’re cleaning the garage.

I hear them sneak outside. I sit up and crawl to my window to peek from a corner. I can hear them out there. They come slowly into view as my eyes adjust to the gray darkness.

They’re standing in the lawn. My father is wrapping string around my mother’s legs. Her arms are spread at her sides. She is wearing baggy clothing. There is string wrapped around her arms and her waist. A sudden gust catches her from behind and sweeps her up. My father holds a stick with a pile of string coiled around it. The string unravels like fish line from a fishing pole as my mother takes off, wiggling up into the smoky sky, her arms held out, the string curling like a spring behind to follow. “Wwweeeeeee,” she sings as the line stiffens. My father leans to hold the line tight against the wind. My mother shrinks from sight, up into the swirling night. Churning clouds rush by. The wind blows waves of leaves about to arc and circle in currents in the air. Strange glowing birds swoop down out of the darkness to join my mother from the clouds. The large birds flutter around her as she balances on the wind, moving back and forth in the sky. She holds her arms out, her clothes flapping wildly, then they fill with more wind and tighten to form a sail that keeps her aloft.

As she straightens, she drops her arms. She has a long, stiff rod tied onto her shoulders to hold her clothing in place, like a curtain rod. She reaches for her midsection. I can still see her so far up there, illuminated in the moonlight. She is beginning to feed the glowing birds from a canvas feeder strapped around her midsection. She tosses the birds food, chunks of bread. They flap in place and pluck the morsels from the sky. My mother looks happy.