All Stories, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Feather Cap By Paul Handley

Ry thought his heart was shattered beyond repair.  Five weeks before he was leaving for college his girlfriend of fourteen months broke up with him to date some creep she met at an under ages show.  Ry’s uncle, Lee was visiting from Meridian, Louisiana.  Ry never understood why, but the family never went to visit him.

“Let me make you a drink,” he said.  Uncle Lee pulled three bottles toward him from the cabinet bar.  He sniffed and poured off a couple fingers more or less of each.  He stirred each drink for an extensive length of time.

“Let’s have a real drink.  This is a Boulevardier,” he said handing Ry a drinking glass.  “Can I speak to you like a man?”

Ry gave a tentative, “Sure.”

“You might want some ice with that.  Why don’t you go grab some?”  Ry went to the freezer to retrieve three cubes shaped like cutaways from a half-inch thick disc of ice.  Ry returned and sat next to Uncle Lee on a stool.  “You seem like you should be more happy, going away to school.  I heard about your girl problems.  College will fix all that.”

“I hope so, Uncle Lee.  I’m feeling pretty beat up.”

“Of course you are son.  You opened yourself up, which is what you got to do if you want to live.  There’s no real choice in the matter.”

“Yeah, but it stinks.  I’m tired of feeling this shitty,” said Ry glancing at his Uncle to see how he would take the profanity.

Uncle Lee, started laughing.  “Well, first of all you got to stop drinking.  Alcohol’s a depressant.”  Ry rose from his stool to dispose of his drink.  “Not right now.  Just in general.  You have always been so literal.  Let me tell you a story.  Pretty female birds attract killers to their nests and make the survivors dull as sparrows, leaving the males to preen.  The more handsome getting a mate, leaving a pretty gene that as I mentioned is fatal to the female.  Therefore a plain handsomeness for both genders is perpetuated, since a stunning male wants a female that approximates his level of attractiveness.  When they die and their souls become human, they gravitate toward anchoring the local news.”

Ry decided that was the end of the anecdote.  “What do you mean Uncle Lee?

“Just let it sit awhile and it’ll come to you.  Where was I going with that?  To be honest, I forget.  Oh well.  There’s a message in there and a good one.  Just stay away from these,” indicating his drink, “at the university mixers and you won’t have these lapses.”

It never did come to Ry even though on a few morose evenings he would try recreate the drink his Uncle made him with disappointing results.  But he enjoyed the image of himself with a drink on his back stoop, staring into the dark, marinating in his misery.

He kept a .22 by his side to shoot squirrels that invaded the garden.  Uncle Lee had called them gay rats because of their fluffy tales.  Ry’s favorite way to shoot them was to blow them off a branch whenever they headed one way and then hesitated prior to a quick reversal.  “Should have been more decisive,” he reasoned.

Ry started to get visits at night from the murdered squirrels in his dreams.  They weren’t too upset about being dead, but had constant duels with each other.  The shot squirrel went down as immediately as a kewpie doll at the local fair when struck by a high school fastball pitcher.  Ry soon joined them and had the wind knocked out of him when he was shot.

Back on the stoop, Ry noticed how the birds took over the yard at certain times of the day.  He knew he had too much free time to dwell within his head.  He recalled his uncle’s evolutionary tale and after a while believed that he could detect the handsome and ugly birds.  He wanted to upend the pattern by protecting the beautiful females and taking down the classically handsome males.  He thought he would create beautiful hybrid babies with their lovely mom genes and unique featured dads.

Then one day Ry’s Mom witnessed the carnage and pitched a fit.  She threatened to call Uncle Lee and tell him what he was doing.  Ry begged her not to because he thought Uncle Lee might connect two and two together and blame his story for Ry’s tinkering with genetics.  She relented after Ry promised to discontinue the genocide.

While out walking one day Ry spotted a bird.  It looked like it was wearing a cap, but he supposed that was a look partial to its kind.  Then he felt it land on his shoulder.  First he felt the wings flutter against his cheek and then the talons dig into his shirt as Ry reared back in panic.

“Take it easy,” the bird said.  It was indeed wearing a black cap that Ry associated with teamsters on a loading dock.  “Just keep it up,” the bird said in a tone that left room for interpreting his words as sarcasm.

“Really?  What?” asked Ry.

“Your target shooting.  It’s about time some of us birds got a chance.  All guys think they have something attractive about them and this gives us hope.  Thing is, it wouldn’t work the other way around.”

“Get rid of the best-looking females?”

“Yeah.  You can’t switch to women, too many image issues.  And we are in a position to do you a favor.”

“What’s that?” asked Ry.

“Call your old girlfriend in one week.  Well, wait a bit more.  Give it ten days,” said the bird.

Time passed and Ry went off to university and majored in media studies.  He planned to return to his hometown and marry his high school sweetheart after graduation.  They got back together after they started talking again.  When Ry asked what happened to the creep, she would only say that it “hadn’t worked out.”

The bird with the cap landed on Ry’s shoulder one day out of nowhere and he hardly flinched.

“We drove him out,” the bird said.


“Whenever they were outside together a flock of us dive bombed him until we feather beat the relationship into submission.”

Ry got a leather jacket with an emblem on the back of a large black bird wearing a cap.  He aimed to anchor the local news. If not Ry, then his children.


Paul Handley

Banner image: Pixabay (p.s. the squirrel is not dead, he is just sniffing the ground!)

4 thoughts on “Feather Cap By Paul Handley”

  1. I think Ry will be okay. Even when he took down the birds, he thought he was doing the birds a service and according to the talking bird, he was. It’s pretty cool how the birds ran the creepy boyfriend away. Haha. Great story!


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