Written with the prompts: conversation stealer, I am I am, the story of your name, the name of a bar in New Orleans, the brother stared out the window, new ways to harvest, oozy rat in a sanitary zoo (palindrome), naps
Ruby the Hummingbird was a conversation stealer. It was her habit to fly through open windows into kitchens and retail stores, to gather up words as they tumbled from people’s mouths.
Seldom did anyone see Ruby, because she approached the speed of light with the rapid jitter of her wings. Often they couldn’t hear her either, for the whirling whine of her movements were high-pitched and thin. But always, always they felt her, rocking the air like a heavy stick in a deep but narrow stream. Sometimes speakers might feel as if someone were slashing a sharp invisible knife near their cheeks and chin. A man might pause and clutch at his beard, a woman might step back and look from side to side. Then it would happen: the words they were saying at that very moment were gone; snatched into Ruby’s slender beak like nectar. No one could hear them. “What did you say?” a listener might ask. But the speaker would feel befuddled. They wouldn’t know, because the conversation was gone. Ruby had stolen it.
Ruby liked this new way to harvest nourishment. It was challenging and sweet. After she’d sucked what sustenance she needed, she would take the words to her foster brother the Owl. For Owl the words served as small chunks of light that illuminated the work he did in a deserted cabin deep in a canyon.
Brother Owl loved human words the way other owls loved rodents and bite-sized bats. He lay out his words like constellations or quilt squares. They formed shapes and patterns. “These,” he told Ruby, “are the stories of our names. Here is a small bar in New Orleans called ‘Nola.’ Here is a train called the ‘San Joaquin Express.’ Here is a man called Siddhartha, and a woman called Mary. Here is the Angel Gabriel, and a Western Bluebird called Joe. Here is a wild rat who wishes he could live in a zoo. He knows he might be stuck in a cage, but he would feel secure and cared for. It’s a sad story, but I understand it.”
Ruby watched Brother Owl as he gazed out the window in contemplation. Ruby could perch and listen for only a short time. She was young and she needed to move, for it is the nature of a hummingbird to move. But Brother Owl was old, and perhaps a little bit crazy. Still Ruby was happy to serve him. He was kind and beautiful.
It was late; it was time to nap. Before she left, Ruby asked Brother Owl—since he loved names so very much—did he have another name—a special one—for himself? “I am who am,” he told her, and she was satisfied.
Photo by Zdenek Machacek on Unsplash