“Burt, you can be anything you want to be. You can soar like an eagle!” That’s what his mother always told him. And Burt did soar. Champion quarterback in high school. Big Man on Campus in college. Youngest vice-president of his father’s successful insurance business. Handsome bon vivant and man-about-town. Married well. Burt didn’t have to do too much to soar. He had it all. And yet, he didn’t. Something was missing. A vague feeling of emptiness would overcome him from time to time.
One day, as he was driving through the countryside to meet one of his salesmen at a client’s house, a large pheasant crashed into the front of his car causing him to nearly run off the road. He quickly stopped the car, got out to see what damage had been done and swore when he saw the smashed grill, complete with pheasant dangling. “Damn!”
He finally untangled the bird from the grill. As he raised it in his hand to throw it into the field, the bird’s feathers caught his eye. He stopped his motion, struck by their iridescent beauty. An unexpected feeling of pity and loss overtook him. This had been a vibrant, beautiful creature before fate had tossed it into the path of his speeding car. It had soared over the land and run through the fields. It had had a purpose. Burt wasn’t sure what that purpose may have been other than to someday be someone’s dinner, but it had some purpose. Unbidden the bitter thought came to him, “What purpose do I have? I’ve flown high. I’ve had success – thanks to my father. But I haven’t done anything for anyone else, fulfilled any real purpose – not even to be someone’s dinner.” Burt felt a sad emptiness creep into his soul.
Caressing its feathers, Burt gently laid the bird down in the field and wept.
I chose S.M Florey’s “Born to Soar” because that is the one that I had the strongest emotional reaction to. In some ways it was the least “clever” story and the most direct and so it had a great punch for me.
I like the simulated letter aspect of some of the other entries as well. Patrick Nelson, Stephen Rogers, D. Charles Florey’s stories had a great direct tact that took into account the elements of the painting and combined them with a sense of humor and a great fantasy of what the whole picture meant. I kind of wanted to find out the back story on each letter and how the recipient of each chose to react.
I’m not sure if I “get” all the pieces because many of the pieces took on a Duchamp like surrealist bent. D. Charles Florey’s “Intercity Man of Mediocrity” took a kind of Dadaist approach to the elements and kind of turned the letter into a response to an “object poem” that Breton would be proud of. I like his sense of humor. It read a bit like some other entries such as Kyle Toman’s short nonsensical phrase, the anonymously submitted, “The Party-wabbitbunny,” and Sharon Skolnick-Bagnoli’s “A Safe Flight.” Taking a surrealist vein to a darker place was Dee Turbon’s “Only Screaming.”
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