written by lauren d. h. miertschin

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I have been rather discouraged with my writing, with my running, with so many things in myself.  That is my nature.  I would love to adhere to Winston Churchill's words that "Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."  So, in the spirit of keeping that enthusiasm (before I even read this quote), I wrote a little diddy for a on-line short story contest called Firstline Fiction.  They provide the first line (from a published work) and you pump out a story.  Then after all stories are submitted, each contestant receives 6 of them to read and rank.  Winners are determined by these rankings.  The line for this contest was "A boy with a parrot on his shoulder was walking along the railway tracks," a line from author Michael Chabon.  With no idea where I was going, because I don't usually write stories very quickly, I roughed out my entry overnight, finished it up the next day and submitted it, I believe on the deadline day.  I didn't win; I didn't place.  But that is OLD news.  The experience however, was quite fun, and it did give me something to post here.  My entry for First Line Fiction, Contest #5:


A boy with a parrot on his shoulder was walking along the railway tracks. The sun peeked above the horizon, casting a brilliant light upon the two. Snow capped the westerly mountains, beneath which stood the schoolhouse, where a group of finely dressed men converged beneath a tree to discuss ousting their mayor.

No one from these parts could say they’d seen the boy and his bird before. One of the bystanders at the schoolhouse remarked that he appeared to be talking to himself – the boy, not the parrot. Had one of those townsmen ventured down the hill and crept up on the two, they would have learned a different story.

“I told you that I don’t want to hear it,” said the boy. With a distorted face he shook his head, apparently agitated.

“We should have turned back at the mines,” said the parrot. “I told you so, told you so, told you so.”

“Ahh, shucks. Ain’t turning back now. Now hush your mouth and leave me be.” The lad pulled a prune from the pocket of his long tattered coat and threw it to the ground.

“I told you so.” The bird made an odd sound, sort of a giggle, before he swooped down and grabbed the fruit. “We shouldn’t have left . . .” He ruffled his turquoise colored wings. “Should have turned back at the mines . . .”

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” the boy said. He leaned his shoulder forward for the parrot who landed awkwardly, clawing into his master’s coat.

“There!” the parrot exclaimed while puffing out a brilliant green chest. His head nodded toward the group of men outside a freshly painted schoolhouse. “We can look for rest there.”

The boy glanced up on the hill, the men no longer languidly lingering about, they raised their arms in frantic gestures. The boy hesitated before moving onward. “And what then? You think those folks ain’t gonna ask why a ten year old boy wanders these parts alone? Stupid bird,” he exclaimed.

“I know of a spot, just past the schoolhouse there.”


“Ah! Should have turned at the mines,” the bird squealed. He flapped his enormous wings, slapping his master’s ears. “Stupid boy! I’m old enough to be your father!”

Now, the boy knew darn well that the parrot had been around a lot longer than he. He wasn’t foolish enough to think he was the bird’s first owner. Before Ma died in the hotel fire she said that the parrot came from Pa’s side. He never knew Pa to ask him. When he questioned the bird, he would never let on how many masters he’d actually had. The boy never thought to press for an answer.

Meanwhile, a brawl erupted among the men on the hillside. Several women burst forth from the schoolhouse. And the boy and bird could hear their shrill voices, seemingly urging the men to stop. There was one particular woman, who stepped away from the group and walked cautiously down the slope. Her dark hair worn past her shoulders flew about from the gust of wind growing in the valley.

“Keep walking,” said the parrot. “Get along.”

“I thought you said –“

“What do you know what I said? I said get along.”

The boy stopped dead on the tracks, determined to settle this now. He didn’t want to hear it later from the bird, “We shoulda this, we shoulda that . . .”

“Just wait one darn second,” said the boy.

Fists flew atop the hill as the woman made her way in the boy and parrot’s direction. At the bottom of the slope she grabbed hold of her skirt near the knees, and lifted it well above her ankles. Then she took off running across the rocky terrain.

“Get along,” screeched the parrot.

Women continued yelping on the hillside, blows landed in rage despite their pleas. The woman with her skirt pulled up above ankle-high black boots continued running toward the boy and his parrot. She tripped twice on the rocks. But that didn’t stop her. A hundred yards away from the railroad tracks she began waving her arms. “Please,” she screamed. “Don’t go!.”

“Crazy woman,” the parrot muttered. “Can we go now?”

The boy fumbled in his pocket and threw a prune to the ground. Expecting the bird to fly down from his shoulder, the boy changed direction and walked straight on to the woman. He could see her clearly now – fresh face, pink lips, large, dark alluring eyes; she was about twenty years old.

“I’m waiting!” The bird pecked his curved beak against the boy’s head.

The woman stumbled forth, tears streaming down her cheeks as she slowed to a halt. “Charlie,” she wept. “I’ve been looking for you almost ten years!” She held her arms out to the parrot.

“Graawk,” the parrot said.

The boy looked to the woman, then to the parrot. “Charlie,” he whispered, "how does she know your name?”


“Where did you go? Where have you been?” The woman fell to her knees. “It took me days to find my way out of the mines.”

"Mines?” The boy lightly smacked the bird on the side of his head. He looked to the men still fighting on the hill, then down at the woman who wept into her hands. Finally, he turned to stare down Charlie, who refused his eye contact while perched on his shoulder.

Not a cloud existed in the sky as the sun blared down on these three in the windy valley. The woman squinted looking up at the boy and his bird. She hesitated, hopeful Charlie would utter a kind word.

“Graawk . . ."

“Ahhhhh,” moaned the woman. “I’ve missed you so much. I couldn’t go home. Heck, Charlie,” she sobbed. “I had no home!”

“Charlie!” the boy screamed. “Say it ain’t so, PLEASE Charlie.”


The woman sobbed and reached out to caress the bird’s neck.

The parrot jerked away from her touch. And he saw that tears welled up in the boy’s eyes. Ruffling his feathers, Charlie shook his head. “Women!” he screeched.

The parrot then spread his wings and took flight from the boy’s shoulder and flew up along the railroad tracks. He flew on, toward the westerly, snow-capped mountains. While the men on the hilltop mended their wounds, the boy and young woman comforted one another in each other’s arms. Then after some time, the two made their way up the hill together, to make their lives in this small, yet prosperous mining town.

(c) Lauren D H Miertschin

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