11. Mr. Feather
rating: +44+x

Mr. Feather drifts off a clifftop and flutters down four hundred feet, passing clumps of hairy grass and rock dove nests, and hits the ground at the bottom with a thump. He groans, and pulls himself up to his elbows, only to meet the eyes of a short, round-faced girl with black hair standing at the ravine. She blinks mutely.

He stands up, brushes off the elbows of his suit, pulls down the powder-blue lapels and straightens the feather from his hat. The man is skinny, too skinny, and he looks like a corn stalk, but, eminently polite, he leaves his hat off and bows to the girl all the same.

She blinks at him, and Mr. Feather immediately knows what she thinks- she’s six or seven, just where things that can’t happen have just come apart from things that can happen, and Mr. Feather is one of those: men don’t exist who can drift off the tallest hillside in the state and not be all broken and twisted. And he got up again.

The girl turns tail and runs. Mr. Feather smiles and follows her. Something is flapping in his chest. She doesn’t know him yet—Mr. Feather can always fall and never break.

At her home, the girl’s mother cooks dinner for the two of them, when Mr. Feather knocks on her door. He is, she thinks, so thin, that when he gently tells her, “Madam, my car broke down up the road- if you don’t mind, I’m very hungry, I have a blood condition-” He stops once she smiles a little, won over, embarrassed for his plight. “Well, let me look in the fridge, I might have some fruit…”

Her girl, the black-haired one, stands in the hallway and stares at him. He looks at her, but feels a familiar gentle tug in his chest—there is a bird living there, and it just woke up. His vision goes a little faint-colored, and the girl’s gaze passes through him.

“Actually, pardon me, madam-” Just as she turns towards the refrigerator, it slips and he tumbles over the house’s railing. Out, down, over the deck and the manicured suburban lawn- the grass hardly touches him. It slips a little further so that when he blows towards a chainlink fence and passes through it- now comes the interpass, three cars swerve out of his way, a motorcycle slows down as he whooshes past. Two car drivers talk when they pass by- tumbleweeds don’t grow around here, do they? Must be construction. Heels over head and around and around, he falls to rest in a ditch full of ivy, and comes back slowly, wincing.

Sighing, he gets up again, putting on his hat. It wouldn’t do to forget it. If Redd is really there when he arrives, he doesn’t know what he’ll do, but these days the memory of Ms. Sweetie- well, Sweetheart, he called her- is enough to keep him going. Sugar and Feathers were always a good combination, right? Light, lovable, and halfway intangible and breakable- well, no. Not that. For that reason alone, it could have never worked.

Mr. Feather feels for the feather in his hat, adjusts it, and keeps walking. With any luck, he’ll hitch a ride. Night falls on the highway, and he walks and he walks and the birds fly home around him.

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