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After My Father’s Funeral, I Just Drive

The car windscreen frames the nothingness of low cloud. The far-reaching view I want is hidden but I crave peace just as much, so I do nothing, letting my sleeve catch raindrops through the half-open window.

Scrabbling and flapping sounds beside my head and I think it’s a pigeon, until I spot clawed, yellow toes sliding along the curved edge of the roof, and spanned brown and cream tail feathers looking for purchase in the space below. There is a rank smell. Sharp, musty, meaty; the cruel smell of the final seconds of a tiny creature it has just eaten, or of the bird itself? I don’t want to breathe it in; it is vaguely disgusting like a whiff of bacteria. Is this what nature smells like? I have never been so close to a wild predator. Pinned to the seat, responding as one of its prey would, connecting somewhere in my brain with hunted creatures who know when to keep still and when to move, I worry that it will fall into the car, imagining its wings flapping in the void between me and the steering wheel.

Then it’s really happening: feathers flying everywhere and me shutting my eyes, pressing back into the seat, not wanting to hurt it or be hurt myself, stretching my hand to shove open the door hard so it bangs against the car beside mine, keeping my mouth shut in case feathers get in there, not breathing because of the smell.

The hawk finds its way out and dives out of sight into the murk. I register the splat of shit on the dashboard, on my trousers; catch the shocked eye of the guy in the car I had banged. I laugh and he laughs, like my father would have done. I shut the door.

Flash Fiction by Claudie Whitaker

Published in Autumn 2017


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