Saturday 6 June 2020

'Flight' by Janice Leagra

Two cranes danced for one another near the pond’s edge. They squawked and churred. Each one stopped long enough to mine for palmetto bugs and swallow them before the pirouetting resumed. Jim shifted in his chair, never taking the binoculars from his eyes. In all his years of living in this secluded spot, cranes had never come this close.

The pair continued their ritual, red-capped heads bobbing. Then the female stopped, tilted her body forward, opened her wings, and lifted her tail end. The male flapped his wings and rose high enough to mount her before lowering himself back to the ground and walking away. It was over so quickly. Both birds threw back their heads and let out a screech, then resumed foraging.

Gwen would have loved this, stifling giggles and wrestling the field glasses from him. A couple of voyeurs sitting in a Florida lanai, watching a crane mating dance. “A perfect date,” she’d have said. Then she would have climbed onto his lap and they’d have given the cranes a show of their own.

His chest ached.

He couldn’t stop watching them. Their soft warbles and purposeful rooting were oddly comforting. He considered recording them, but thought better of it.

This was enough. Besides, he dared not move.

The female paused again and stared in Jim’s direction. He held his breath. She tilted her head. He let out his breath in a slow whisper. In an instant she bolted skyward, wings swooping up and down with force and grace. The male flew after her, screeching and flapping frantically, as she soared across the pink sky and out of view. She made no sound at all.

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