If Not Now
Edward bent down and picked up the tube of lipstick.
As he looked at it, a wristwatch armband, a blue bottle cap, a pencil stub, and a familiar star-shaped earring also landed beside him.
The ring, thought Edward. The ring will fall at any moment.
He looked up at the sky, but he did not see a ring. He did not see any other miscellaneous objects.
He did see a small bird.
While it is not unusual to see a bird in the sky, this bird appeared to be falling instead of flying. It appeared to be a small sparrow wearing a long blue scarf. The small sparrow fell straight toward Edward.
Edward’s first thought was: I am not going to be hit on the head by a weird sparrow.
He stepped aside.
His next thoughts came in rapid succession:
If not me, who?
If not now, when?
Hurry up already and make a decision. This means you.
He hopped forward and stepped to the left, stepped back again and leaned to the right, made a quarter turn and felt a little dizzy, and at the very last possible moment lunged forward and reached out and opened his hand and caught a small sparrow named Ella.
Edward raised Ella to his chest and held her close. Her breath came in fast, broken gasps.
Maybe I am a man of action, thought Edward.
The young apprentice’s bag weighed more than usual as he walked slowly away from the Tower. It felt difficult not to drag across the ground. As he thought about the tools he would never use and the Clock Makers Guild card he could never earn, he wondered if he shouldn’t throw the bag in the Pond and be rid of it once and for all.
And then run away, he thought. And change my name.
He wondered if his mother would miss him.
Madame Alouette stood by the entrance of the Bird House and watched the apprentice approach. She lumbered out to meet him.
“Step one,” she said, “you should give me that.”
She took his bag and put her arm through his.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “It’s heavy.”
“This itsy-bitsy thing?” She raised the bag high in the air. “Heavy? Burdensome and ponderous? Not this. Maybe something else weighs you down. I am trying to remember if I have ever met anyone who needed a cup of tea more than you.
She leaned back and stared at the apprentice.
“Nope,” she said. “Step two: follow me.”
Zhao watched Madame Alouette take the apprentice by the arm and lead him inside. He fetched a new teacup and a plate.
Ella opened her eyes and found herself in the front breast pocket of Edward’s jacket. She saw a floppy, scraggly beard above her, and she bounced and bobbed as Edward walked quickly through the Park. He kept a hand on his front pocket to support the sparrow. Ella could feel a quick heartbeat behind her.
Edward stumbled on the pavement, and Ella cried out.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I know where we can get help.”
They approached the Bird House as the door swung closed behind Alouette and the apprentice.
“Almost there,” said Edward to Ella.
A hand clapped down on Edward’s shoulder, and he stopped and turned around.
“I’m sorry,” said Detective Weisell. “I have orders to arrest you.”
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© 2018 Colin Lewis · Brought to you by Unlikely Objects