Forever Untitled

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
September/October 2005

By Margaret Bryan, Illustrated by Ashley Burke

The feather fluttered to the ground. I looked about me, as if affirming that no one would deprive me of this precious trinket. A red-breasted robin broke out in song. I closed my eyes and breathed in the lightly fragrant aroma of its music.

Music. One of the few things in life that can’t be described in words.

I relished the robin’s tune for a few short minutes, clutching the feather (which had a texture of raw silk) for the whole experience. The tender autumn air rustled my hair ever so slightly, like that of the first sunshine of spring.

The sensation of autumn flooded through me, and “Forever Untitled,” as I had decided to call the robin’s melody, rang through my veins. It seemed as if this day of bliss would never come to an end.

But there were other things to be done that day. I slowly strolled home, not wanting to pop the magical bubble which nature had conjured.

Upon arriving home, I was greeted with a terse “do the dishes.” Not wanting to get in trouble with my parents for neglecting my duties, I reached for a dirty plate, leaving my feather of remembrance upon my desk.

The rest of the day seemed like awakening from a dream of perfection. I felt lost and guilty that I had abandoned nature’s beauty and indescribable music. My freshly scoured hands, cloaked in dishwashing liquid, longingly reached out the kitchen window. I pinched a small piece of air, oh so light and wonderful. My hands brushed absently against the foliage scented with the fruitful smell of honeysuckle.

Forever Untitled girl near a tree

I closed my eyes and breathed in the lightly fragrant aroma of its music

Finally I was done. I shook my hands briskly to dry them.

I had not been done one minute when five crisp, snow-white envelopes were thrown carelessly on the kitchen table. I swept my locks of raven-black hair out of my eyes and examined each envelope attentively. The first two were of no surprise. An electric bill and a note informing us of the cost of the new door. I sighed. Electric bills were common additions to our postage. My family had a reputation for wasting electricity. In truth I was not to blame, as I spent most of my time in the comforting luxury of the outdoors.

A resounding shriek caused me to pause during the process of opening the third envelope (which was addressed to me from my most devoted friend, Loretta). I couldn’t help but smile; I knew what it was to feel triumphant.

My eight-year-old sister, Marion, shuffled towards me happily.

“Alex, look!” she said, barely breathing in her excitement. She presented me with a large, circular object. I paused, both shocked and a bit horrified. A beautiful mask was before me, scattered with (I gulped) the sad remains of a robin’s feather.

“It, well,” I said slowly, “it’s lovely.”

Marion looked at me blankly for a few moments, and I knew that my remark was not as praising as she would have hoped. I knew that she could tell from my tone that I was unsatisfied.

“You don’t like it,” she said finally, crestfallen.

“Oh, no, it is not that!” I exclaimed. “I think it is beautiful. I’m just wondering where you got the materials.”

“You’re wondering about the feather, aren’t you?” my sibling said, reading my thoughts. “It was the one on your desk. I thought you wouldn’t mind, as there are plenty of feathers to go around.”

In my mind I shuddered. I tried to convince myself that it was just a feather, a recent token representing my love of the things around me, but I couldn’t. However, I managed to give my sister a dishonest smile and say heartily, “Oh. Well, it’s beautiful.”

My disappointment was short-lived though, and time had soon consumed any feelings of anger towards my sister.

It was 5:30 P.M. Suppertime. I quickly grabbed five mismatched forks and hurried to the dining room. My brother, Reginald, my senior by two years, was already at the table. Soon my other family members had entered.

The dinner was uneventful. Instant rice dinner and stuffed apples were passed silently along the table, while glasses of chilled ice water were sipped with lack of ceremony After the meal I slipped upstairs unnoticed. The moment my head hit the pillow I fell asleep.

*          *          *

The next morning the sun shone bright and I awoke with no traces of straggling fatigue.

When I entered the kitchen a flood of rock music filled my ears. I glanced at my sister, then at the radio, which was shaking so violently. I feared it would fall off the shelf supporting it.

Forever Untitled girl playing violin

The sound of magic filled the room

I groped for the cornflakes box. “Not this early in the morning, Marion.” I now opened the fridge, looking for the milk. Marion switched off the music immediately.

After breakfast I washed the dishes and Marion took out her violin, intending to play me a jaunty tune. When I told her no, and perhaps some classical, she seemed obviously puzzled, but nevertheless obeyed my request.

The sound of magic filled the room. I was entranced by the spell that the simple wooden instrument had conjured. Of course, all music had its magic, but to savor its full flavor you had to sit down and enjoy it. At this moment there were only two words to describe the sensation. A name that was not really a name.

“Forever Untitled,” I murmured, and the robins broke out in chorus.

Forever Untitled Margaret Bryan

Margaret Bryan, 10
Holden, Maine

Forever Untitled Ashley Burke

Ashley Burke, 12
Cedar Park, Texas

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