Serenity by Rob Vogt, Flash Fiction Finalist, LISP 2nd Quarter 2020
One day over coffee at a local diner my AA sponsor asked me, “What exactly are you afraid of?” I suppose he expected a socially acceptable answer like death, bankruptcy, or failure to satisfy a woman in bed.
“Here’s what you need to know about me,” I replied. “Every morning I walk five miles along a two-lane highway between two forest preserves. Mostly I walk on the very edge of the asphalt, outside the white boundary line. But when I see cars hurtling toward me at high rates of speed, I stay on the road for as long as possible before dashing into the woods.”
“Do you have a death wish?”
“No. I stay on the road until the last minute because I’m afraid of the birds.”
“Yes. The birds in these woods are aggressive birds, territorial birds, nasty birds. I’m pretty sure these birds eat the babies of other birds. What I’m afraid of is that one of them will land on my head and peck through my skull in one clean motion, the way an omelette chef raps an egg against the rim of a mixing bowl. I’m terrified by the thought of that bird flying away with tiny bits of my brain impaled on its beak.”
My sponsor tilted his head before speaking.
“Why don’t you just find another place to walk?”
I paused, taking a deep breath.
“Yes,” I agreed. “That would solve the problem.”
When I got home, I filled an oversized mug with ice and poured reasonably priced Chardonnay over it. The ice crackled and popped, the only sound in my kitchen that I could really hear. Then I raised the mug to my mouth, unable to avoid thinking my sponsor doesn’t know the first goddamn thing about birds.