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.

on May. 25 2009 at 11:27 pm
jennee21_ann GOLD, Helper, Utah
17 articles 0 photos 568 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Don't gain the world and lose your soul....wisdom is better than silver or gold."

"You can always close a book, but you can never close the mind of a writer."

Wow...Omigosh! I cant even put into words what I think about this. You're an awesome writer. A beautiful story!

on May. 25 2009 at 8:24 am
Syahirah BRONZE, Melaka, Other
2 articles 51 photos 28 comments
Amazing story. The way you tell us one by one who 'I' is very interesting. Keep writing!

on May. 20 2009 at 12:56 pm
ArleneNicole BRONZE, Porter, Texas
2 articles 0 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
"You read too much!" Balbulus was always saying. But what was she to do? Without words she would die, she'd simply die.
-Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke

It was unique, I liked it. You had my attention the whle way through, keep it up!

Kestrelwing said...
on May. 19 2009 at 11:42 pm
This is absolutely gorgeous! The imagery was amazing and you kept me guessing right until the end. Great work!

on May. 18 2009 at 9:36 pm
hbwriter SILVER, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
9 articles 0 photos 19 comments

Favorite Quote:
It's time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap!

great ending! and good for you for foreshadowing it a bit. but my only question is, was the narrator the girl on the corner? i think she was, but i'm not 100% sure. keep writing!

on May. 18 2009 at 5:59 pm
Inkspired PLATINUM, Whitby, Other
26 articles 0 photos 493 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If one will scoff at the study of language, how, save in terms of language, will one scoff?" - Mario Pei
"I write for the same reason I breathe - because if I didn't, I would die." Isaac Asimov

Awesome!!! I do not get what happened when the girl died, though. Was she coming from the other side, or did she push the business woman out of the way? I love the ending, how surprising it is, and the way you tell us that she's the girl from the corner.

Julie117 said...
on May. 17 2009 at 5:56 pm
Julie117, Somers, New York
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
Just because you can't see the beauty in something doesn't mean it isn't there for someone else.

That was fantastic.

on May. 16 2009 at 6:25 pm
StreetLightsFade GOLD, Commack, New York
11 articles 0 photos 2 comments
its gorgeous (: amazingly written!

on May. 15 2009 at 5:03 pm
YeseniaG SILVER, Livonia, Michigan
7 articles 1 photo 122 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is what happens when you're busy making plans.

Great work. I really like this piece.

CatCave GOLD said...
on May. 7 2009 at 4:29 am
CatCave GOLD, Duluth, Georgia
17 articles 14 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
We do not inherit the earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.

incredible. it was so honest and real.

mmfdg623 GOLD said...
on May. 3 2009 at 8:14 pm
mmfdg623 GOLD, Lyndhurst, New Jersey
15 articles 0 photos 39 comments

Favorite Quote:
Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.
Louisa May Alcott

This is amazing.I loved the storyline and how you give more and more evidence that the person telling the story is dead, but you don't completely reveal it until the end. Keep up the good work.

on May. 3 2009 at 11:48 am
Chicken--Pie SILVER, Higher Bebington, Other
8 articles 1 photo 17 comments
Wow. I loved it. Have you ever watched The Sixth Sense? The ending made me gawp as much as that. You're a really good writer. You should do some more stuff. I'd love to see what you'd come up with!

on Apr. 29 2009 at 2:44 am
Dream-Junkie SILVER, Wahiawa, Hawaii
8 articles 5 photos 6 comments
This is amazing! I love the twist at the end and the originality of the whole story and the idea. You're a fantastic writer!

mayarkmslee said...
on Apr. 28 2009 at 11:32 pm
i love the story but i don't really get it either. is the storyteller dead? is she the girl that died on that corner?

jnewman said...
on Apr. 28 2009 at 11:27 pm
jnewman, Jacksonville, Florida
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
TJ said it good enough. Amazing.

on Apr. 27 2009 at 9:29 pm
TJ21992 PLATINUM, Penn Yan, New York
31 articles 1 photo 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
"No matter how fast light travels, darkness is always there first, waiting!"

This is amazeing!! It is almost as if you know the teller is dead the whole time but you really don't fully understand it to the end. The elemnt of surprise at the end is amazeing and this is a very talented piece. Please keep writeing!!

on Apr. 26 2009 at 10:34 pm
allyssa stevenson, Monee, Illinois
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
its a wonderful peice but i don`t exactly get it , is the story teller dead???

on Apr. 26 2009 at 2:24 am
ramnapotter PLATINUM, Toronto, Other
26 articles 1 photo 90 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow...”

Touching. Vey nice piece. Keep writing.

on Apr. 24 2009 at 6:37 pm
chloeex3 BRONZE, Ottawa, Other
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment
This is really lovely. It feels so soft and strong at the same time. I love it =]

on Apr. 24 2009 at 3:57 pm
kimBErly♥, Louisville, Kentucky
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
good job