Mini Fiction Monday: Don’t Follow Your Passion, Follow the Bird

Hello Readers, Writers, and Friends,

Today I write as I am on hold with my kid’s physician. My estimated wait time is twenty minutes. Bonkers. So instead of twiddling my fingers or scrolling Pinterest I’ve decided to do some light lifting. I quick flash fiction for my sanity and your enjoyment.

Today’s prompts are: roadrunner, eclipse, dishwasher

This little guy frequents my yard for the fat lizards that live in the wall. Thank him for today’s prompt.

Toni, well Antonio to his mother, well actually gordito to his mother and all of his tias, but when anyone else asked, he was Toni. And Toni had been washing the dishes at Mama Lea’s Pizzeria every afternoon for the better part of six months. He was on time, conscientious, and he never took more than one smoke break. Martha, the manager, said she wished all her employees were as great as Toni, and the minute she had an opening on the pizza oven it was his.

Toni didn’t mind waiting. He’d been waiting longer than six months and not for a job standing around a blistering wood-fired pizza oven. He’d been waiting for a sign.

It came in a dream. A rush of images that brought him to the back door of Mama Lea’s looking for work. A rush of wings and tickling feathers, strange quality to the light, and deep male voice telling him everything would be all right.

So he scrubbed and dried and took free breadsticks home every evening. It was on his walk home one of those evenings that he saw it.

A roadrunner. Its head cocked thoughtfully, its tail feathers popping in a kind of salute. It watched him. Then it took off over a set of train tracks, flapped its way over the ditch, and disappeared into the desert. Deja vu and vertigo warred in Toni’s head.

He knew that bird. That very one. He was close. Closer to his destiny than he’d ever been.

He didn’t eat his breadsticks that night. He didn’t sleep.

When he got into work the next day all anyone talked about was the eclipse, but Toni was too tired to pay much attention. He even dropped a plate for the first time. The rest of the kitchen applauded.

A gentle hand rested on his shoulder. “You ok, Toni?”

Martha’s eyes were full of concern. Toni just nodded and mumbled an apology about the plate.

“Why don’t you take a break?” she suggested.

Toni didn’t argue. He stumbled his way outside and lit up a cigarette. He focused on his breathing, the slow inhale, the brief hold, the long slow exhale. The world stabilized just a little.

He opened his eyes to find the roadrunner staring at him from across the ally. It took a few steps and looked back at him, like it was waiting for him to follow. Its tail fluttered in that way that seemed to beckon.

He dropped his cigarette and followed the roadrunner. No easy task. That things legs and body were built for speed. He’d lose it for a second then see it pop up just ahead again. His legs and arms pumped. His lungs regretted all those smoke breaks. But he kept up.

Then it happened, just like in his dream. The light went strange. He felt like everything shimmered and swam. He caught glimpse of crescent shaped shadows under the mesquite trees. Still the roadrunner ran.

It dropped down a short rise ahead, and when he topped it he nearly tripped over the dang thing. It had stopped, staring ahead at a wall of dust coming their way. The light around them dimmed further. The air thickened with desert grit.

Toni picked up the roadrunner and hunkered down behind a rock. The wind howled and beat against them. The roadrunner stayed close, occasionally pecking at his apron strings. Toni closed his eyes and waited, waited.

When the wind finally stopped screaming, the sun had returned to normal. Toni stood up, the roadrunner still in his arms. He didn’t know what to do now. What had the dream, the sign even meant? Where was the voice?

“Hey you, with the roadrunner!”

Toni turned to find himself looking at man in his mid fifties, leaner than might be called healthy, and dry desert tanned.

“Not everyone can keep up with a roadrunner,” he said. “My name’s Mark.”

He held out his hand for Toni to shake.

“Toni, well Antonio, but you can call me Toni.” He shifted the weight of the bird under his arm.

“Well I train Olympic runners, Toni. You ever thought about giving it a try?”

“I’m only here on a visa…” Toni started. The roadrunner, certain that he wasn’t about to be eaten and therefore done with this little rendezvous, pecked Toni in the shoulder, dropped to the ground, took off.

“You don’t worry about that son,” Mark said. “You come run for me, and everything will be all right.”

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