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The Feather

A feather propped at the end of the kitchen window ledge. Brown and white in ascending curved stripes. Lighter at the base, darker at the tip. A pen-like quill divides its width. It is an accidental donation. A gift. Left by a buzzard that called in the ash tree. A passing visitor briefly surveying the garden, the house. A wild bird, daily familiar with death.

This year, in January, there are two buzzards each day in the ploughed field opposite the house. Running like crazy-legged chickens, they plunge their gritty beaks in the soil to feast on earth worms, grubs, beetles. Fly back and forth from the oak, the ash, the sycamores that fringe the field. Sometimes they spiral skywards on V shaped wings, buoyed by life. They scrutinise their domain. Their cries announcing their existence. Their need.

He is chocolate brown, smaller than her, his white princess. Is he attracted by her light feathered look? Does he find her behaviour beguiling, her stare captivating? And does she admire his call, his dark feathers, or perhaps his bug catching skills? Will there be others—rivals, suitors—wilder, stronger, more handsome—plumed with intent—who will compete for her attention? Her love?

I hold the feather, feel its soft resistance in my hand. Then place it back in the corner of the window ledge. Where it is instantly captured. Tamed.

And again, you swoop carelessly into my thoughts. A fleeting token, but one I accept.

Flash Fiction by John Holland

Published in Summer 2017


  1. Another lovely one, John. The images in this are full Technicolor!

  2. A vibrant and potent story. I watch from below the Bisley Road Cemetery for the buzzards that inhabit the woods opposite. I will experience them more vividly having read your story. Thank you.

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