Sparrow | Teen Ink

Sparrow MAG

September 19, 2008
By pandafyre BRONZE, Grinnell, Iowa
pandafyre BRONZE, Grinnell, Iowa
3 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
“You dress in shadows, brother, but there is starlight in your eyes”

-Elizabeth Bear, All the Windwracked Stars

Every morning I look out at the streets but I don’t watch the cars. I watch the people – the fat man who sells hot dogs on the corner, the newspaper lady wearing the neon orange vest. Sometimes a kid rides by on a bicycle. Other times, the elderly woman who lives one floor down will put a leash on her German shepherd and then will be dragged two blocks before disappearing out of sight around the corner. They all do that, at some time or another.

I sit still for so long that a bird – a little sparrow with twitchy eyes – lands on the sill. Its feet shuffle back and forth, back and forth, until it is level with me. I am sitting straight, but I am small, so my chin is even with the sparrow’s beak.

“Hello there,” I say. I imagine the vibration of my voice has scared the tiny creature as it flies off. My eyes return to the street where the traffic light has changed in accordance with the rising sun and drifting river of commuters.

A long time ago, a girl was killed on that corner. I remember the day because it was my birthday, the twenty-second. Double twos.

She wore her hair in a braid, and jeans and a red shirt like the kind that can be found in the thrift shop on 53rd Street. Her skin was brown from time spent in the Californian sun, and I remember thinking, This is a long way from California. The worst part is that she didn’t know what people were like here. She’d seen gangs and once even lived in a neighborhood where gunfire was a constant concern. She’d been to funerals; the funeral of her sister, specifically. She was no stranger to death, and yet she didn’t understand!

I am not seeing the street any longer. The glass reflects the glare of the light, blinding me. In that glare I see the yellow taxi swerve to the left. I see the young businesswoman on the sidewalk, talking distractedly as she crosses the street. The light is green! Don’t walk! Please, don’t walk.

I see the green car. The man inside is a drunk because his girlfriend cheats on him and every Friday he goes to the Puss ’n Boots to get back at her. Her mother is dying. Her mother dies of cancer even as he flirts with the redhead in the silk camisole. Even as he pretends to have an excuse.

The taxi screeches to a halt just inches from the businesswoman’s shiny black shoes. She glares at the driver, a sweaty gray man who has been in the business 25 years and has never run anyone down. Just three dogs and a cat.

She is so distracted that the green car is on her before anyone who is not watching can blink. Thump!

Time does not freeze. Times moves just fine, but perception is off because the businesswoman is not lying on the asphalt, sprawled out in pain. She is panting on the sidewalk, cell phone crushed beneath the tires. Her neatly coifed hair is askew, eyes wild and disbelieving as they take in the young girl with brown skin. The girl is so still, her face pale – she is not Indian after all.

I sigh into the window. It is autumn now, and the air has adopted that crisp snap that warns of the coming freeze. From now on, every night will be terribly cold, especially for those who sleep alone, as the businesswoman does. I can only hope that she is changed, but in the end the only thing that I can do is wonder.

The sparrow is back, pecking away at a black bug racing across the window. Both predator and prey are blocking my view, so I can only see the first few letters of the hot dog stand and a blur of orange that is the newspaper lady.

“I’m sorry,” I tell the bird through the window. It pretends not to hear. “But I don’t have any food for you. You’ll have to tough it out on your own. Do you hear?” The beetle is crunched, and with a flurry of wings, the bird disappears.

The glass is a mirror and a window at the same time. I can see the fat man and the elderly lady now, but I can’t see them as I used to. They are not people anymore; I don’t know what they are. Souls, perhaps?

The door creaks open so fast, with only a jingling of keys for warning. I spring out of my chair, and turn sharply to face my new roommates.

They are a young couple toting a bulky baby carrier. Haggard faces, black ovals beneath weary eyes. They look Dutch. I’ve never met anyone from … where are the Dutch from, anyway?

They set down the carrier, and the baby, who has been making an abominable fuss, quiets instantly. Surprised, the couple look dubiously down and then exchange long glances.

“I guess Susan likes it here,” the mother says.

The father rubs his eyes. “Thank God.”

But I know differently. The baby is staring at me. I stand over her and touch my pale fingers to her forehead. She laughs and reaches up, trying to catch my hand, but her chubby little fingers pass through mine. Again and again, she tries, until her worried parents pick her from the carrier like a ripe apple. The mother retrieves the ingredients for the formula while the father rocks her, singing the same lullaby my father sang me once, a long time ago.

I am too busy for the street. My roommates are always moving, doing something. If it’s not the parents, it’s the child, who has taken a liking to passing her hands through my stomach and face as if I am some sort of will-o-wisp. The couple is somewhat bewildered but pleased with the sudden contentedness that radiates from the baby.

“My name was Francis,” I tell her at night. She watches me with huge brown eyes as I recite the story of my life, as I try to make her understand what I see when I look out the window. I wonder, as I do with the businesswoman, if she will remember me when she is older. But for now, all I can do is rub my fingers across her forehead and whisper stories of sparrows and heroes.

Similar Articles


This article has 164 comments.

necnec said...
on Jun. 13 2010 at 5:51 pm
necnec, Summit, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Malice towards none and charity towards all"

This was absolutely amazing!

It is so carefully crafted that you are almost confused until everything pulls together and you learn the secret of the protagonist. A beautiful piece of work!

on Jun. 3 2010 at 6:16 pm
PrudenceFang BRONZE, Herriman, Utah
3 articles 0 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life isn't worth living unless you believe in something."

I like this story! I often write pieces like that, where the narrator is a ghost. I'm fond of that sort of thing. Keep up the good work! : D

jb4eva said...
on May. 22 2010 at 3:47 pm
i loved this story.

on May. 22 2010 at 2:35 pm
qwertyqwerty123 PLATINUM, Concord, California
28 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
"prey on the old and your a coward
prey on the young and your pathetic
prey on the weak and your even weaker
prey on my friends and your history"
- fearless: payback (book 6) by francine pascal

that was really neat how the narrator ended up being the girl who was killed. completely unexpected! spectacular!

reesha SILVER said...
on May. 22 2010 at 2:29 pm
reesha SILVER, Rawalpindi, Other
6 articles 15 photos 124 comments

Favorite Quote:
"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them."
Walt Disney

"Hakuna Matata!"
Lion King

"The British policy was 'unite and conquer'. But I say 'unite and conquer'."
Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea)

WOW!! I loved the description! Of course the end was startling... I didn't realize that he/she was a spirit.... 

Keep up the good work!!

on May. 22 2010 at 1:48 pm
whispersofthenight GOLD, Tallahassee, Florida
10 articles 2 photos 35 comments

Favorite Quote:
I am an artist; I paint with words.

Awesome! I loved this, keep up the good work

on May. 22 2010 at 7:12 am
PlaceboEffect, Chesterfield, Virginia
0 articles 0 photos 30 comments
I really loved the way you described the people who walked down the street. The baby was a wonderful touch, and the sparrow was probably the best part. Thank you, this really made me think.

on Apr. 30 2010 at 2:45 pm
chartothalatte GOLD, Cleveland Heights, Ohio
10 articles 1 photo 62 comments
wow! amazing work with this! you really captured what new york city is like. i really enjoyed reading your work. i figured out about half way through that the girl that was killed was the girl telling the story, but it was a still a great read!

on Apr. 8 2010 at 10:11 pm
bittersweetcolors BRONZE, Arlington, Massachusetts
3 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here.

I actually got chills from this; pretty amazing considering it was a short story. You're really at describing-- I could picture the scene-- but still making the story gripping and captivating, so the details did not weigh down the story. You got some talent

on Apr. 8 2010 at 7:23 pm
SilverLuna SILVER, _________, Washington
8 articles 0 photos 229 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Come fairies take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame.".... W.B. Yeats.
"Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss." - Douglas Adams

Wow, that was good. The surprise at the end that she is in fact the girl who was killed is somewhat unexpected! Great Job!

on Apr. 8 2010 at 4:01 pm
ChangedForever, WW, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.
-Toni Morrison

this was really good. i guessed about halfway through that she was the girl who died, but that didnt make it any less enjoyable for me. your description and style were both amazing! 

jessig BRONZE said...
on Mar. 17 2010 at 12:35 pm
jessig BRONZE, Leawood, Kansas
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment
This was one of the best I've read on here! I think parts of it could have been shortened slightly but the description was beautiful. Thanks for posting this.

mandygale77 said...
on Mar. 17 2010 at 10:08 am
Incredible! Great job!

on Feb. 23 2010 at 10:04 am
littlewriter97, Dover, New Hampshire
0 articles 0 photos 23 comments
But now I think that the girl who died on the street was her.......... Right?

on Feb. 23 2010 at 10:03 am
littlewriter97, Dover, New Hampshire
0 articles 0 photos 23 comments
WOW, you are a very talented writer!! While I was reading I thought that the girl was alive and just watching out the window.

on Feb. 1 2010 at 6:47 pm
germangirl SILVER, Tucson, Arizona
5 articles 0 photos 1 comment
Hey I live in Vail too! Its a small world.

on Feb. 1 2010 at 5:14 pm
Darkchloe14 BRONZE, Memphis, Tennessee
1 article 0 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Be Strong"

This story was extremely good. Definitely one that leaves you wanting more

Gerudo said...
on Feb. 1 2010 at 3:03 pm
it was a very interesting storyline. 100/5!

on Feb. 1 2010 at 2:25 pm
SarClark BRONZE, NC, Connecticut
2 articles 0 photos 534 comments
Wait so was the person the girl??

lumpy13 said...
on Feb. 1 2010 at 12:05 pm
i liked this a lot