The Unfolding of Flamingos by Julia Ruth Smith

Outside the sky is autumn dolphin blue. I let the salt slick my lashes when my mother isn’t looking. It isn’t flamingo season yet but I feel them coming down the rift and it saddens.

I hear her climbing the castle steps behind me. She rasps and rumbles, grasping the iron handrail. I know to wait, give her time; smile at her flush of pink. Through the mullion the sea is calm and flat and silent.

The photographs in the exhibition are elephant grey and misty. My mother tilts her head to see them better. We shuffle from room to room. She follows in my footsteps. I’d like to take her hand, pull her faster; tell her not to give up, not just yet.

One frame shows an old man knee-deep in water, his shirtsleeves rolled up to his moonshadow elbows, balancing in age slightly to the left.  Behind him there is a flamboyance taking flight, their legs streaking red like veins on salt flats. The old man straightens and joins them. We’re coming, he says, as sure as the end of even the longest day.

My mother coughs, startling dust, which catches in sunbeams and spirals. She’ll blame the humidity, insist on prawns for lunch, a glass of rosè; press her cheek to October heat. I won’t smoke to please her. I’ll nervously twist a paper napkin into wings and cup my hands to the breeze, let her fly. They’re coming. We both feel it.

Julia Ruth Smith is a mother, teacher and writer. She lives by the sea in Italy. Her work has appeared in Vestal Review, Flash Frog, Reflex Fiction and has been selected for the upcoming Bath Flash Fiction Anthology. She has been nominated for Best of the Net by Full House Lit and a Pushcart by Seaside Gothic. On Twitter @JuliaRuthSmith1 or at the beach.

a flock of flamingos flying

Photo by Dave Hoefler.

Share This